Time change causes much more depression
Normally the changeover of the clocks from summer to winter time is quick and easy. But this time change can cause many people psychological problems. Researchers now found that the change in time in the fall is linked to a massive increase in the frequency of depression.
Researchers at the Danish Aarhus University Hospital found in their study that switching from summer to winter time causes a massive increase in the incidence of depression. The physicians published the results of their study in the journal "EPIDEMIOLOGY".More and more people today are suffering from mood swings and depression. Researchers now find that the time change in the fall is associated with a massive increase in rates of depression. (Image: Korta / fotolia.com)
Massive increase in depression noted in the fall
Many people have no problems with the time change at all. However, there are also people in whom switching from summer to winter time leads to serious mental health problems. Especially at this time of the year, medical professionals observe a massive increase in depression, which is mostly associated with decreased daylight exposure.
Researcher: Increasing depression is not accidental
The researchers analyzed data from 185,419 cases of depression for their study. All of these illnesses were diagnosed between 1995 and 2012. The physicians discovered thereby a massive increase of depression after the conversion of the clocks. This increase is too pronounced to be just coincidental, the experts explain.
Winter depressions affect up to 20 percent of the population
The observed psychological effect applies to all severity levels of depression. It's not just about serious cases in hospitals, says Professor Seren Ostergaard of Aarhus University Hospital. The main reason for the increase in depression is the sudden onset of the darker days. But even negative thoughts about the following long time of darkness in the winter months play a role, say the authors. The so-called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that is related to the change in the seasons. For example, winter depressions affect up to 20 percent of the population, the scientists speculate.
Many people do not get enough daylight in winter
Most people probably benefit less from daylight in the morning because they either take a shower, eat breakfast or just drive to work by car or bus. Unfortunately, when we have free time in the afternoon, it is usually already very dark, says Professor Ostergaard.
Symptoms of SAD are highest in December, January and February
In addition, the transition to winter time is likely to have a negative psychological effect, because this change marks the beginning of a long, dark and cold period, say the authors. Seasonal affective disorder is associated with reduced sun exposure during the shorter autumn and winter days. The symptoms are strongest in December, January and February.
Physicians call for increased awareness of depression after the time change
Our findings should raise awareness of depression in the weeks following the time change, especially for those with a tendency to depression, adds Professor Ostergaard. Of course, relatives should be particularly attentive.
Lack of daylight affects our hormones
The main theory for the causes of so-called winter depression is that a lack of sunlight affects a part of the brain (the hypothalamus), which subsequently does not function properly, the experts say. This will lower the amount of a hormone called serotonin. The hormone affects mood, appetite and sleep. In addition, the production of melatonin increases, which can lead to drowsiness. Our internal clock can also be disturbed, the scientists add.
What are possible symptoms of so-called winter depression?
- Continuing bad mood
- Loss of interest in normal everyday activities
- Increased irritability
- Feelings of desperation, guilt and worthlessness
- Drowsiness during the day
- Long sleep and difficulty waking up in the morning
- Increased craving for carbohydrates and related weight gain
What to do in winter depression?
For some people, these symptoms may even be so severe that they have a significant impact on daily activities. Patients should therefore consider treatment. Such a treatment includes, for example, as much sunlight as possible, a so-called light therapy with a special lamp for simulating solar radiation, professional advice or cognitive behavioral therapy and not least the use of antidepressants. (As)