Impact of sleep disturbances on employment and work productivity among midlife women in the US SWAN database: a brief report

Menopause. 2021 Aug 30;28(10):1176-1180. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001834.


Objective: Menopause is associated with an increased prevalence of sleep difficulties. We evaluated the economic burden of sleep disturbances among working midlife women.

Methods: This retrospective, longitudinal cohort study collected data from the US Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) database of women age 42-52 years at enrollment. We assessed the association between sleep disturbances (trouble falling asleep, waking early, or nocturnal awakenings) and workplace productivity (employment [yes/no] and work hours/wk) for women who were employed at the baseline visit and had ≥1 follow-up visit. We estimated overall economic burden by multiplying changes in productivity by median age-specific hourly US wages. Each woman's data were compared from visit to visit and were excluded after the first observed unemployment. Regression analysis was used to estimate associations between changes in sleep and changes in workplace productivity while controlling for relevant characteristics that varied over time.

Results: The analysis included 2,489 working women (19,707 visits); 31% became unemployed during follow-up. Risk of unemployment was 31% higher for women with versus without new-onset sleep disturbances (P = 0.0474). Onset of sleep disturbances was associated with a 0.44-0.57 hours/wk reduction in work time (not significant). Using the more conservative reduction (0.44 h), sleep problems were associated with an annual loss of $517 to $524 per woman and $2.2 billion/yr in lost productivity among women age 42-64 nationwide.

Conclusions: New-onset sleep problems in midlife women are associated with significant increases in risk of unemployment and ∼$2 billion/yr in lost productivity nationwide.

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Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Wake Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Unemployment