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Study: Letting kids sleep in could save the U.S. billions

A new study suggests that letting teenagers sleep in wouldn't only be good for their mental health, it could also provide a significant economic boost for the U.S. economy (CollegeDegrees360 / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

UNDATED (WKRC) - A new study suggests that letting teenagers sleep in wouldn't only be good for their mental health, it could also provide a significant economic boost for the U.S. economy.

The Rand Corporation's study on delaying school start times concluded that pushing start times back could provide an estimated gain of $8.6 billion to the U.S. economy in just two years.

The study set out to answer two questions: What would be the economic impact of a statewide universal shift in school start times to 8:30 a.m.? And would a statewide universal shift in U.S. school times to 8:30 a.m. be a cost-effective policy measure?

Arguments against delaying school times across the U.S. have typically included additional costs due to changes in transportation such as rescheduling bus routes.

The study showed that even after a short period the national economic gain of implementing later start times would already outweigh the added costs per student that might come with adjusting transportation times.

According to a press release, the study used a novel macroeconomic model to project gains to the U.S. economy over 15 years from 2017, with this being around $140 billion by the end of the time period. On average, this corresponds to an annual gain of about $9.3 billion each year, which is roughly the annual revenue of Major League Baseball.

“For years we've talked about inadequate sleep among teenagers being a public health epidemic, but the economic implications are just as significant," said Wendy Troxel, senior behavioral and social scientist at the Rand Corporation. "From a policy perspective, the potential implications of the study are hugely important. The significant economic benefits from simply delaying school start times to 8.30 a.m. would be felt in a matter of years, making this a win-win, both in terms of benefiting the public health of adolescents and doing so in a cost-effective manner.”

Numerous studies, including this one by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, have shown that teenagers who aren't getting eight to 10 hours of sleep are more likely to be overweight, avoid physical activity, suffer from depression symptons, engage in drug/alcohol abuse, and perform poorly in school. A 2016 study by the Rand Corporation showed that the U.S. sustains economic losses of up to $411 billion a year due to insufficient sleep among its workforce.

Throughout the study's cost-benefit projections, a conservative approach was undertaken which did not include other effects from insufficient sleep, such as higher suicide rates, increased obesity and mental health issues — all of which are difficult to quantify precisely. Therefore, it is likely that the reported economic benefits from delaying school start times could be even higher across many U.S. states.

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