Insomnia leads to substantial costs in U.S.

By Will Boggs, MD NEW YORK, Reuters Health

Untreated insomnia among adults in the United States generates significant direct and indirect costs, according to a report in the medical journal “Sleep,” so treating this condition is probably cost-effective.

“Our study suggests that ignoring insomnia will result in substantially higher medical expenditures and lost days of productivity at work,” Dr. Ronald J. Ozminkowski from Thomson Medstat, Ann Arbor, Michigan told Reuters Health.

Ozminkowski and associates used data obtained from medical claims to investigate the direct costs and employee absenteeism, and short-term disability records to estimate the indirect costs, associated with treated and untreated insomnia.

Patients who were eventually diagnosed with insomnia had significantly higher direct medical expenses than those who were never diagnosed with insomnia, the results indicate. The difference in the average direct costs, defined as the medical expenses of untreated insomnia, was US$924 for patients under age 65 and US$1,143 for older patients.

Absenteeism costs averaged US$3,042 for patients with untreated insomnia, compared with US$2,637 for patients without insomnia, a difference of US$405, the researchers note.

Similarly, short-term disability expenditures were US$86 higher for patients with untreated insomnia than for patients never diagnosed with insomnia, the report indicates.

“Chronic insomnia is estimated to affect about 10 percent of the U.S. population, so it would not be surprising if at least 1 out of 10… patients had it,” Ozminkowski said.

Information in the published literature “also suggests that most people with insomnia seek over-the-counter treatment, or get no treatment, for lengthy periods of time,” Ozminkowski continued. “It may be more useful for employers and health plans to find better ways to motivate employees and health plan beneficiaries with insomnia to seek formal treatment, to avoid unnecessary medical expenditures or lost productivity.”