Background and purpose: To document and provide a micro analysis of the relationship between insomnia and health problems, health-care use, absenteeism, productivity and accidents.
Participants and methods: A population-based sample of 953 French-speaking adults from Québec, Canada. Participants were categorized as having insomnia syndrome (SYND) or insomnia symptoms (SYMPT) or as good sleepers (GS). They completed questionnaires on sleep, health, use of health-care services and products, accidents, work absences and reduced work productivity. Data were also obtained from the Québec-government-administered health insurance board on selected variables (e.g., consultations with health-care professionals, diagnoses).
Results: There were significantly more individuals in the SYND group relative to the GS group reporting at least one chronic health problem (83% vs. 53%; OR: 2.78) and who had consulted a health-care professional in the past year (81% vs. 60%; OR: 2.8). There were also higher proportions of individuals in the SYND group than in the GS group who had used prescription medications (57% vs. 30.7%; OR: 2.8), most notably to treat insomnia, mood and anxiety disorders, or who had used over-the-counter products (75.6% vs. 62.0%; OR: 1.8) and alcohol as a sleep aid (17.8% vs. 3.9%; OR: 4.6). In terms of daytime function, 25.0% of the SYND had been absent from work relative to 17.1% of GS (OR: 1.7), 40.6% reported having experienced reduced productivity compared to 12.3% of GS (OR: 4.8) and non-motor-vehicle accidents occurred at higher rates in the SYND group (12.5% vs. 6.4% for GS; OR: 2.4). No differences were found for hospitalisations or motor-vehicle accidents. Most of the associations remained significant even after controlling for psychiatric comorbidity. Rates for the SYMPT group were situated between SYND and GS on all major dependent variables. Furthermore, insomnia and fatigue were perceived as contributing significantly to accidents, absences and decreased work productivity, regardless of insomnia status.
Conclusions: This study indicates that insomnia is associated with significant morbidity in terms of health problems and health-care utilization, work absenteeism and reduced productivity, and risk of non-motor-vehicle accidents. Future studies should evaluate whether treating insomnia can reverse this morbidity.