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Years of Life Lost Due to Insufficient Sleep and Associated Economic Burden in China From 2010–18

Xumeng Yan, Fang Han, Haowei Wang, Zhihui Li, Ichiro Kawachi, Xiaoyu Li

Journal of Global Health, April 2024

Portrait of Haowei Wang

Haowei Wang

Research on the health and economic costs due to insufficient sleep remains scant in developing countries. In this study we aimed to estimate the years of life lost (YLLs) due to short sleep and quantify its economic burden in China.

We estimated both individual and aggregate YLLs due to short sleep (ie, ≤6 hours) among Chinese adults aged 20 years or older by sex and five-year age groups in 2010, 2014, and 2018. YLL estimates were derived from 1) the prevalence of short sleep using three survey waves of the China Family Panel Studies, 2) relative mortality risks from meta-analyses, and 3) life tables in China. YLL was the difference between the estimated life expectancy of an individual in the short sleep category vs in the recommended sleep category. We estimated the economic cost using the human capital approach.

The sample sizes of the three survey waves were 31 393, 31 207, and 28 618. Younger age groups and men had more YLLs due to short sleep compared to their counterparts. For individuals aged 20–24, men had an average YLL of nearly 0.95, in contrast to the approximate 0.75 in women across the observed years of 2010, 2014, and 2018. The trend in individual YLLs remained consistent over these years. In aggregate, China experienced a rise from 66.75 million YLLs in 2010 to 95.29 million YLLs in 2014, and to 115.05 million YLLs in 2018. Compared to 2010 (USD 191.83 billion), the associated economic cost in 2014 increased to USD 422.24 billion, and the cost in 2018 more than tripled (USD 628.15 billion). The percentage of cost to Chinese gross domestic product in corresponding years was 3.23, 4.09, and 4.62%.

Insufficient sleep is associated with substantial YLLs in China, potentially impacting the population’s overall life expectancy. The escalating economic toll attributed to short sleep underscores the urgent need for public health interventions to improve sleep health at the population level.