A new Flinders University study has found significant workplace productivity losses among young Australian adults, primarily caused by insomnia.  

The study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, used data from the West Australian longitudinal Raine Study Generation 2 cohort, which includes 554 workers aged 22 years. The new study showed that total workplace productivity loss was up to 40% greater among 22-year-olds with clinical sleep disorders compared to their peers with no sleep disorders.  

“This is equivalent to total workplace productivity loss (followed up on multiple occasions across 12 months) of about four weeks for young people with clinically significant sleep disorders, compared with less than one week for those without,” says Flinders University associate professor in clinical sleep health Amy Reynolds, PhD, who led the study, in a release. “The Raine study previously showed that about 20% of the young adults surveyed had a common clinical sleep disorder, so this work eventuated because we wanted to know how much of an impact these disorders have on workers in their workplaces.  

Reynolds, a provisional psychologist with the Insomnia Treatment Program at Flinders, says the productivity loss is largely driven by “presenteeism.” 

“So, they’re at work, but they’re just not working to their best capacity or potential,” she says in the release.

Supporting management of sleep disorders is a priority for researchers at the Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute Sleep Research group, formerly the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health.  

Senior co-author professor Robert Adams, MD, and colleagues are focusing on giving general practitioners in primary care the ability to access appropriate, evidence-based care and resources for sleep disorders across all sectors of the population.  

Supporting young people to access cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, for example, can reduce the need for prescribing sleeping tablets or other interventions which may not tackle long-term sleep problems.  

The Australian Management of Sleep Apnea and Insomnia in Primary Care trial based at Flinders University is seeking to support general practitioners to manage two of the most common sleep disorders—insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea—which affect more than 4 million Australians and cost at least $66 billion annually.  

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