Killer clocks: Scientists count the health and economic costs of changing the time

Putting the clocks forward and back twice a year could cost Europe €300 billion a year. [Shutterstock]

It’s that time of year again, when Europeans scratch their heads and wonder if the clocks will go forward or back an hour. Once again, experts have questioned the point of this practice. EURACTIV Germany reports.

For quite some time, critics have tried to prove that changing the time is no longer useful. And now they have turned to science to try and prove their point.

Turkey will no longer be changing their clocks and will continue to practise Daylight Savings Time in winter. That means that travellers to Istanbul from Western Europe will have to put their watches forward by two hours instead of one.

At a Brussels conference, Russell Foster, a professor of neuroscience at Oxford University, and Till Roenneberg, professor of medical psychology at Munich University, presented their findings on how changing the clocks affects sleep patterns.

Their conclusion was damning: putting the clocks back does not bring energy savings, has significant health risks and is a high cost to the economy.

The scientists did not sugar coat their words and sought to prove that the change in time has a dramatic effect on physical and mental functions, by messing with our biological clocks. Children and the elderly take weeks to get over the effects of the change. Moreover, an increase in traffic accidents and complications in surgery have been recorded.

In addition to damaging effects on people’s health, the economy also suffers. Experts have calculated that the biannual change costs the EU between 1% and 2% of its GDP, mostly directly linked to the health concerns listed above. This means that nearly €300 billion is lost every year.

Timmermans: We must convince Europe the era of meddlesome EU rules is over

The European Commission must convince people and businesses that the era of meddlesome EU regulation is over, Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans admitted today (26 May), before warning that would take “some time”.

Austrian MEP Heinz Becker saw enough in the scientific data to call on the European Commission to “finally take action” and put an end to a practice that “only does harm”. Moreover, he called on Violeta Bulc, the Commissioner he holds accountable for the matter, to stop refusing to review the risks of changing the time.

The former German Empire was the first country to implement Daylight Savings Time, back in 1916. It has always been a divisive issue. Most retailers and sports practitioners are in favour of it, as it allows them to exploit the after-work sunlight. But farmers have not always been fans of the practice.

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