Sleepless In South Asia

A new study reports a global ‘sleeplessness epidemic’ affecting an estimated 150 million people across the developing world.

AsianScientist (Aug. 6, 2012) – A new study reports a global ‘sleeplessness epidemic’ affecting an estimated 150 million people across the developing world.

Levels of sleep problems in Asia and Africa are approaching those seen in developed nations, linked to an increase in problems like depression and anxiety, say researchers from the University of Warwick.

The study, published in the journal Sleep, reveals that 16.6 percent of those surveyed in the developing world report insomnia and other severe sleep disturbances. This number is close to the 20 percent found in the general adult population in the West, according to nationwide surveys in Canada and the United States.

The researchers looked at the sleep quality of 24,434 women and 19,501 men aged 50 years and over in eight locations in rural populations in Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Indonesia, and an urban area in Kenya.

They examined potential links between sleep problems and social demographics, quality of life, physical health, and psychiatric conditions.

The strongest link was found between psychiatric conditions like depression and anxiety and sleep problems, mirroring trends seen in the developed world.

One of the most striking elements of the analysis was the differences between countries: Bangladesh, South Africa, and Vietnam had extremely high levels of sleep problems, in some cases surpassing Western sleeplessness rates. Bangladesh had a 43.9 percent rate for women – more than twice the rate of developed countries and far higher than the 23.6 percent seen in men. Bangladesh also saw very high patterns of anxiety and depression.

Vietnam too had very high rates of sleep problems – 37.6 percent for women and 28.5 percent for men.

Conversely, India and Indonesia reported relatively low levels of severe sleep problems – 6.5 percent for Indian women and 4.3 percent for Indian men. Indonesian men reported rates of sleep problems of 3.9 percent and women had rates of 4.6 percent.

The research also found a higher prevalence of sleep problems in women and older age groups, consistent with patterns found in higher income countries.

“Our research shows the levels of sleep problems in the developing world are far higher than previously thought,” said lead author Dr. Saverio Stranges.

“This is particularly concerning as many low-income countries are facing a double burden of disease with pressure on scarce financial resources coming from infectious diseases like HIV, but also from a growing rate of chronic diseases like cardiovascular diseases and cancer,” he added.

The article can be found at: Stranges S et al. (2012) Sleep Problems: An Emerging Global Epidemic? Findings From the INDEPTH WHO-SAGE Study Among More Than 40,000 Older Adults From 8 Countries Across Africa and Asia.


Source: University of Warwick; Photo: Two Roses/Flickr.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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