Lack of sleep can turn you into a slacker and shorten your life
Sleeping under six hours a night will affect your work and make you 13 per cent likelier to die prematurely, a study shows. Also in health news: links between alcohol and heart disease, and between mental health and youth ailments
A lack of sleep among the US working population is costing the economy up to US$411 billion a year, which is 2.28 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, a new report finds. According to researchers at the not-for-profit research organisation Rand Europe, sleep deprivation leads to a higher mortality risk and lower productivity levels among the workforce.
A person who sleeps on average fewer than six hours a night has a 13 per cent higher mortality risk than someone sleeping between seven and nine hours (described as a “healthy daily sleep range”), researchers found, while those sleeping between six and seven hours a day have a 7 per cent higher mortality risk.
In total, the US loses a little more than 1.2 million working days a year to sleep deprivation among its working population. Productivity losses at work occur through a combination of absenteeism, employees not being at work, and presenteeism, where employees are at work when they are ill and consequently work to a lower standard.
The study is the first of its kind to quantify the economic losses due to lack of sleep among workers in five different countries. Overall, the US suffers the biggest financial losses, followed by Japan (US$138 billion), Germany (US$60 billion), the UK (US$50 billion) and Canada (US$21.4 billion).
Alcohol consumption shows no effect on coronary arteries
If you enjoy alcohol, here’s the good and bad news: light drinking has no protective effect on your heart, as previously thought, but light to moderate drinking has no harmful effects on your coronary artery disease risk either.
Researchers at Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary used a diagnostic tool called coronary computed tomography angiography to identify lesions and plaque in the coronary arteries of nearly 2,000 patients with suspected coronary artery disease who had visited the University’s Heart and Vascular Centre.
Information on alcohol consumption habits was collected using questionnaires about the amount and type of alcohol consumed. “About 40 per cent of our patients reported regular alcohol consumption, with a median of 6.7 alcohol units consumed weekly,” says study author Dr Julia Karady. One unit translates to approximately 200 millilitres of beer, 100ml of wine or 40ml of spirits.
The results showed that the amount of weekly alcohol consumption, whether light or moderate (maximum of 14 units per week), was not associated with the presence of coronary artery disease. In addition, no associations were found with different types of alcohol and the presence of coronary atherosclerosis.
Independently of whether alcohol has any effect on the coronary arteries, moderate alcohol consumption has been associated with a number of potential side effects, including negative long-term effects on the brain and heart.
Mental disorders and physical diseases go hand in hand in young people
A study in young people finds that arthritis and diseases of the digestive system are more common after depression, while anxiety disorders tend to be followed by skin diseases. These newly identified temporal associations draw attention to processes that could be relevant both to the origins of physical diseases and mental disorders and to their treatment.
Psychologists at the University of Basel and Ruhr University Bochum, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, analysed data from a representative sample of 6,483 teenagers from the US aged between 13 and 18. Reporting in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers also found a close association between epileptic disorders and subsequent eating disorders. This suggests that approaches to epilepsy treatment could also have potential in the context of eating disorders,” explains Dr Marion Tegethoff, the study’s lead author.
From a health policy perspective, the findings underscore that the treatment of mental disorders and physical diseases should be closely interlinked from an early age on.