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‘Five-minute-memory’ costs Brits £1.6 billion  (27th November 2008)

 

The pressure of modern life has halved our attention span in a decade, causing a surge in domestic accidents.

A new behavioural study, commissioned by Lloyds TSB Insurance, reveals that the average attention span is now just five minutes and seven seconds, compared to more than 12 minutes a decade ago.

The study put 1,000 people through a series of tests to judge their awareness and ability to recall everyday events. The over-50s outperform younger groups, suggesting that impaired attention is not age-related but caused by external factors such as lifestyle and workload.

This was confirmed by participants, who cite stress (18 per cent) and ‘decision overload’ (17 per cent) as the main reasons for poor short-term memory and flagging attention span. 

The increasing attention deficit has serious consequences, according to psychologists, because it is one of the main causes of ‘unforced’ accidents in the home. More than £1.6 billion worth of damage was caused this year due to incidents ranging from lost door keys to burnt-out pans and the insurer estimates that nearly a million baths have been left to overflow in 20081, contributing to more than 37,000 water-related claims for Lloyds TSB Insurance.  

Using a series of psychometric measures, psychologists were also able to pinpoint 7.55am as the point in the day when one of these incidents is most likely to occur, coinciding with getting ready for work and the rush of the school run.

This collective memory failure isn’t just causing costly domestic accidents but also has some bizarre consequences in our everyday lives. More than 11 million people (25 per cent) admit that they have momentarily forgotten the name of a close friend or relative, and three million (seven per cent) have even failed to recall their own birthday.

David Moxon, the Social Psychologist who led the study said:
“More than ever, research is highlighting a trend in reduced attention and concentration spans, and as our experiment suggests, the younger generation appear to be the worst afflicted.  Lack of attention has a serious impact on task performance and increases the risk of accidents.”

Paula Whiskerd, Senior Marketing Manager at Lloyds TSB Insurance, which commissioned the study said:
“We’re facing longer hours and more pressure at work than ever before, and it’s having severe consequences on our home lives. We’ve seen thousands of cases where forgetfulness has caused serious accidents – so homeowners need to be vigilant of home hazards and ensure they’re fully covered for any slip ups.”

According to the study, the most frequent home hazards include:

  • Electrical items left charging for long periods (31 per cent)
  • Freezer left open (21 per cent)
  • Oven/grill left turned on (20 per cent)
  • Pans left on hob (11 per cent)
  • Iron left on (10 per cent)
  • Switched-on laptop left on bed or sofa (9 per cent)
  • Left bath or basin overflow (8 per cent)
  • Hair straightners / curling tongs left on (8 per cent)
  • Left the gas on (7 per cent)
  • Left burning candles or open fire unattended (5 per cent)

Average insurance claim for accidents by region

Region
UK
North East
North West
Yorks/Humber
E. Mids
W. Mids
Ave. claim
£1,400
£1,300
£1,410
1,300
£1,370
£1,425
Region
East Anglia
S. East
S. West
London
Scotland
Wales
Ave. claim
£1,190
£1,525
£1,260
£1,960
£1,560
£1,190

Attention span by sex, age and region

 
UK
Male
Female
18 - 34
35 - 44
45 - 54
55+
Att Span
5.07
5.03
5.11
5.01
5.18
5.18
5.10
Region
N. East
N. West
Yorks / Humber
E. Mids
W. Mids
East Anglia
S. East
Att Span
4.15
5.18
5.17
5.43

5.20

4.47
5.02
Region
S. West
London
Scotland
Wales
-
-
-
Att Span
4.40
4.47
5.18
6.07
-
-
-

Experiment methodology