End of daylight saving time can be linked to depression: Study

End of daylight saving time can be linked to depression: Study

The end of the daylight saving time (DST), when the United States adjusts to standard times, might be a cause of concern for millions of people. A switch back to standard time for winter has been linked to a host of problems, including car accidents, health problems, higher crime rates and higher rate of mental illnesses. As per a recent study, the end of DST is linked to an increased number of psychiatric cases in hospitals, particularly linked to depression. DST is the ritual of setting clocks back an hour which began on March 13, 2016 and ended on November 6, 2016.

The study  by researchers from the Aarhus University, University of Copenhagen, and the Stanford University found that shifting to standard time led to an increase in depression cases in the fall. The findings, published in the journal of Epidemiology in November 2016, studied files of over 185,000 cases of depression across Denmark from 1995 to 2012. Comparing the depression rates, the researchers found that when clock changed to standard time, unipolar depressive disorders increased by 11 percent. They also observed that depression rates decreased after 10 weeks. However, the same trend was not observed after the transition from standard time to DST.

The researchers said that getting maximum sunlight can help combat negative side effects of DST. In a statement made to the Washington Post, study author Soren Ostergaard from the Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark, described the study as the first of its kind in addressing the connection between depression and transition from DST to standard time.

However, the study did not specify the exact reasons for depression. As per Ostergaard, the study should be taken seriously by healthcare professions, particularly the ones dealing with depression.

Seasonal affective disorder: Causes and symptoms

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression or seasonal depression, occurs during the same season each year. Though anyone can get affected by SAD, the problem is more common in women aged between 15 and 55 years, in people with family history of SAD, and in people who live far from the equator. One of the most important causes of SAD is lack of adequate sunlight.

An individual suffering from SAD may show the following symptoms:

  • weight gain
  • trouble concentration
  • loss of interest in routine activities
  • appetite changes
  • low energy
  • hopelessness
  • irritability

As most of these symptoms appear during winter months and ease with the onset of summers, they start in September or October and subside by April or May.

Due to its cyclical nature, SAD is often referred to as seasonal depression. When not treated, SAD can lead to other problems, such as substance abuse, social withdrawal, problems in school or work life, and suicidal thoughts.

Connection between DST with SAD

Many people celebrate the extra hour they get due to the end of DST. However, for approximately 5 percent population, it is the time when the symptoms of SAD begin to appear. As per Mayo Clinic, SAD symptoms include loss of interest, appetite changes, irritability, mood changes, among others.

The Mayo Clinic states that as SAD does not have any specific cause, there are possible contributing factors for the disorder. Reduced levels of sunlight can disrupt a person’s biological clock and can lead to development of SAD symptoms. Levels of serotonin and melatonin can also cause SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in the level of serotonin that can affect mood and trigger depression. A change in the season can disturb melatonin level, a chemical that plays an important role in mood and sleep patterns.

Recovery road map

The seasonal depression has a predictable pattern of occurrence. Thus, preventive measures, such as increased exposure to sunlight and change in diet, can help reduce some of its symptoms.

If you or your loved one is suffering from SAD symptoms or any kind of depression and is looking for treatment, contact the Arizona Depression Helpline. We can help you find different depression treatment options in Arizona. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-233-3895 or chat online with our treatment advisors to learn about the best depression rehab centers in Arizona.