It's a yearly ritual that feels as old as time itself. Sometime around the beginning of spring, those in the western world collectively set their clocks ahead one hour. You'd think by now, it'd be as routine as rotating the tires on a car.
But as it happens time and time again, the phenomenon known as daylight saving time can disrupt people's lives to the point where society experiences an increase in heart attacks, workplace injuries (particularly in the mining and construction business) and more aimless web surfing that hurts overall productivity. Collectively, the sudden jolt forward costs the U.S. economy $433,982,548 in 2010, according to an analysis by research firm Chmura Economics & Analytics.
Yes, that's nearly half a billion dollars.
To arrive at that figure, the researchers used data from studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine andThe Journal of Applied Psychology to examine the effects of daylight saving time on the incidence of heart attacks, construction-related work injuries and what they referred to as "cyberloafing" during a brief time interval after the change went into effect.
Once the information was broken down by region, it was used to create the Lost-Hour Economic Index, which lists the financial loss suffered by 360 major cities in the U.S. On average, the study found that the per capita loss due to the change to daylight saving time is at least $1.70. Some markets that don't do DST, like in Hawaii and Arizona, were excluded from the final results.
“The markets that see the largest per capita economic loss in this index are heavily concentrated in West Virginia and Florida where it appears higher heart attack rates and the impacts of workplace injury due to mining and construction are most acute," said Chris Chmura, President and Chief Economist for Chmura Economics & Analytics.
And while the whole point of losing an hour of sleep was to save energy, there's research that suggests the practice doesn't even confer any such benefit. One illustrative example is the unique case of Indiana, which up until a few years ago, only 15 of the state's 92 counties observed DST. Researchers at the University of California-Santa Barbara compared the electric meter readings registered during the time period before the change to the overall usage after and found that residents ended up paying $8.6 million more than we would have if they stayed on Standard time.
Perhaps the findings are indicative of the degree in which we've become an indoor society. That extra hour then becomes an extra hour in which we run our air conditioners, play with the plethora of devices and find some other way to squander that little bit of extra daylight that comes at a great cost.