December 9, 2009 / 1:46 PM / 9 years ago

Stress makes for more sleepless in Taiwan: study

A man sleeps on a bench in a park in Taipei December 9, 2009. More than one in five people surveyed in Taiwan suffers from insomnia, double the 2000 figure and higher than global averages, likely due to stress and declines in overall health, the research head said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Nicky Loh

TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - More than one in five people in Taiwan suffers from insomnia likely caused by stress due to the economic woes, a figure higher than the global average, researchers said on Wednesday.

The survey of 4,005 people found that 21.8 percent of the population has chronic trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, said Lee Hsin-chien, psychiatry chairman at government-run Shuang-Ho Hospital in Taipei.

Overseas, averages of 10 to 15 percent of the population reports insomnia, he said, while Taiwan’s rate was about 10 percent in 2000.

Stress due to recession on the export-reliant island earlier this year might have contributed to the increase, Lee said.

Diabetes, hypertension, anxiety and depression may also be driving insomnia as health generally declines in the face of an increasingly Western lifestyle, he added.

Earlier this year, Taiwan was the fourth Asian economy after Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore to enter recession in the face of the global financial crisis and a collapse in demand for the region’s exports.

The state of the economy prompted employers to lay off workers or require unpaid leave.

“We expected the rate to be high but not that high,” Lee said. “A lot of factors come into play. It’s possibly stress, or it could be people’s health quality.”

Lee led the fourth survey commissioned by the Taiwan Society of Sleep Medicine, which was conducted via telephone in October. He said health professionals in Taiwan were considering a 2010 survey using written questionnaires to determine underlying causes the 2009 results.

Reporting by Ralph Jennings, editing by Miral Fahmy

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