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Many people suffer from so-called winter depression
The changeover of the clocks from summer to winter time is usually quick and easy. However, this change of time can cause psychological problems for many people. Researchers have now found that the change in time in autumn is associated with a massive increase in the frequency of depression.
The researchers from Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark, found that changing the time from summer to winter caused a massive increase in the frequency of depression. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "EPIDEMIOLOGY".
Massive increase in depression noted in the fall
Many people have no problems with the time change. But there are also people in whom switching from summer to winter time leads to serious psychological problems. It is precisely at this time of the year that doctors observe a massive increase in depression, which is mostly associated with the reduced exposure to daylight.
Researcher: Depression is not accidental
For their investigation, the researchers analyzed the data from 185,419 cases of depression. All of these diseases were diagnosed between 1995 and 2012. The doctors discovered a massive increase in depression after changing the clock. This increase is too pronounced to be just accidental, the experts explain.
Winter depression affects up to 20 percent of the population
The psychological effect observed applies to all levels of depression. It's not just about serious cases in hospitals, explains Professor Seren Ostergaard from Aarhus University Hospital. The main reason for the increase in depression is the sudden onset of darker days. But negative thoughts about the long period of darkness that follows in the winter months also play a role, the authors say. The so-called seasonal mood disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that is related to the change in the seasons. The scientists believe that winter depression affects up to 20 percent of the population.
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 drive to work by car or bus. When we have free time in the afternoon, it is unfortunately usually very dark, says Professor Ostergaard.
Symptoms of SAD are most pronounced in December, January, and February
In addition, the transition to wintertime is likely to have a negative psychological impact because this change marks the beginning of a long, dark, and cold period, the authors say. Seasonal mood disorder is associated with reduced sun exposure during the shorter autumn and winter days. The symptoms are most severe in December, January and February.
Doctors call for increased awareness of depression after the time change
Our results should raise awareness of depression in the weeks after the clock change, especially for people with a tendency to depression, adds Professor Ostergaard. Of course, relatives should also be particularly attentive.
Lack of daylight affects our hormones
The main theory behind the causes of what is known as winter depression is that a lack of sunlight affects a part of the brain (the hypothalamus) that then stops working properly, the experts say. This lowers the amount of a hormone called serotonin. The hormone affects mood, appetite and sleep. It also increases melatonin production, which can lead to drowsiness. Our internal clock can also be disturbed, the scientists add.
What are the possible symptoms of what is known as winter depression?
- Persistent bad mood
- Loss of interest in normal everyday activities
- Increased irritability
- feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
- daytime sleepiness
- Long sleep and difficulty waking up in the morning
- Increased craving for carbohydrates and associated weight gain
What to do in the event of winter depression?
For some people, these symptoms can even be so severe that they have a significant impact on daily activities. Those affected should therefore consider treatment. Such treatment includes, for example, as much sunlight as possible, a so-called light therapy with a special lamp to simulate solar radiation, professional advice or cognitive behavior therapy and, last but not least, the use of antidepressants. (as)