One in three Australians suffer from poor quality sleep. New research suggests sleep deprivation is costing the Australian economy more than $5.1 billion a year in both direct and indirect costs. A study conducted by The Sleep Health Foundation, a charity set up to raise awareness of the importance of sleep health, has revealed that 33% of Australian health care costs are directly related to sleep disorders ($274 million). The remainder (67% or $544 million) were attributable to other conditions associated with sleep disorders.
The foundation is working to highlight the benefits of sleep screening, research and treatment, to Australian business and the government. Increased awareness and priority on the national health agenda is needed, in line with issues such as obesity, exercise, alcohol and smoking. The report, “Reawakening Australia – The Economic Cost of Sleep Disorders in Australia” highlights more than 1.5 million Australian adults, 9% of the adult population, now suffer from sleep disorders.
The report looks at the economic impact of major sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea, Insomnia and Restless Leg syndrome. Cost to the Australian economy was estimated at:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnoea - $21.2 billion
- Insomnia - $10.9 billion
- Restless Leg Syndrome - $4.4 billion
- Non-financial costs (i.e. reduction in life quality) - $31.4 billion
It is predicted that the problem of sleep disorders is in fact greater then the report reflects as only individuals diagnosed with these particular major sleep conditions have been considered within the study. Better diagnosis and detection along with increased stress levels, an aging population and an increase in the occurrence of obesity has seen a rise in these figures in recent years.
The study showed that treating sleep disorders makes up a relatively small chunk of the $5.1 billion direct cost to the economy. The research found $270 million a year is spent on directly caring for those with sleep problems and a further $540 million on treating knock-on effects such as high blood pressure, depression, stroke and diabetes. The proportion of each condition attributable to a sleep disorder is as follows;
- 5.3% of stroke
- 10.1% of depression
- 4.5% of workplace injuries
- 4.3% of motor accidents
By far the biggest chunk - $4.3 billion - comes from lost productivity, caused by absenteeism and poor work performance. Professor David Hillman, Chair of the Sleep Health Foundation and director of the West Australian Sleep Disorders Research Institute, states that of the $5.1 billion in financial costs to Australia per year, more than $800 million is a direct cost to the health system. A further $650 million is lost through indirect costs such as decreased productivity, absenteeism, and workplace and car accidents.
The report found that $270 million per year is being spent caring for sleep disorders with figures doubled ($540 million) for associated health conditions. A further $4.3 billion per year is being lost through indirect costs such as lost productivity, informal care and costs associated with motor vehicle accidents and workplace accidents. Based on the World Health Organisation benchmarks, CPAP therapy is considered a highly cost effective intervention for OSA from a both a health system perspective and from a societal perspective. CPAP therapy is reported to have a net cost from a health care perspective of $1 522 dollars per person. From the perspective of society, the net cost was a saving of $857 dollars per person.
The Foundation is working to highlight the benefits to Australian businesses and the Government, calling for a national sleep summit to begin creating nationwide action plans. This includes:
- Promoting greater recognition of the value of healthy sleep in Australian workplaces and homes with national preventive health planning;
- Diagnosis and treatment: Supporting GPs in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders;
- Workplace screening: For employers to play an increased role in helping diagnose sleep disorders and facilitating treatment, particularly in high risk roles in areas such as transportation, heavy machinery and shift work;
- Research and development: Further investigation on the impact of sleep disorders on specific conditions such as diabetes and on performance in the workplace.
Sleep disorders impose a burden that extends beyond health care system and broader economic costs. A person living with a sleep disorder will likely experience a lower quality of life through increased morbidity, and may die prematurely. According to Professor Hillman, "At the moment there is a concentration on healthy diet, regular exercise, alcohol in moderation and smoking, but a good night's sleep isn't there (on the agenda) and it's got to be."
World Health Organization (WHO) 2011, Choosing interventions that are cost-effective (WHO CHOICE), cost effectiveness thresholds, http://www.who.int/choice/costs/CER_thresholds/en/index.html.http://www.news.com.au/business/sleep-disorders-cost-51bn-a-year-study/story-e6frfm1i-1226260098325#ixzz1lCSdl088