Do the seasons really change our moods?

Photo: Matt Brittaine

Rain and snow prevent us from participating in certain outdoor activities, but even though poor weather is attributed to an increase in depression, a new study suggests otherwise. Clinically diagnosed seasonal affective disorder, commonly known as SAD, is weather-related but two long-term studies conducted by David Kerr and his team at Oregon State University shows that cold weather does not have as much of an effect as previously thought on the general population. Associating winter with SAD is common, but this leads people to assuming they have SAD when they really might not.

The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, shows that the general population overemphasizes the effect cold weather has on depression levels. Participants from Oregon (206 males) and Iowa (556 males and females) conducted self-reports over a period of several years, noting depressive symptoms at various times of the day. Participants reported how they felt 10-19 times from ages 14 to 36 years, and at various times of the day. While 92 percent of people said that Researchers compared these reports with local weather conditions, specifically the amount of sunlight intensity at the times the reports were filled out.

Results showed a small increase in depression levels among participants, but it was much less than expected. People view the winter months as a period that will take them into feelings of sadness and intense depression, but this study shows quite the opposite. While being stuck inside on a rainy day can make us feel restless, bored, and even sad, it is encouraging to know that the weather alone won’t lead to clinical depression, and that we don’t have a reason to believe the weather has such a power on our moods and emotions.

Several previous studies ask participants to look in the past and discuss how they felt based on weather, according to Kerr as reported in Science Daily, an online source of research news. People tend to remember key events or moments of happiness or sadness. This method is problematic because it doesn’t adequately measure feelings of sadness with the weather of that time of day. Although only testing two regions of the United States, Kerr’s study showed that time of day or year didn’t make a huge impact on depression levels.

study on the suicide rate in Finland showed that winter months with less light contributed to increased number of suicides. Kerr protests that the Finland study might be different because of various biological conditions or the fact that Finland is located in an area with extreme sunlight shifts limited sunlight availability, which isn’t the case of Oregon or Iowa, where his recent study was conducted.

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Do the seasons really change our moods?

Photo: Matt Brittaine

Rain and snow prevent us from participating in certain outdoor activities, but even though poor weather is attributed to an increase in depression, a new study suggests otherwise. Clinically diagnosed seasonal affective disorder, commonly known as SAD, is weather-related but two long-term studies conducted by David Kerr and his team at Oregon State University shows that cold weather does not have as much of an effect as previously thought on the general population. Associating winter with SAD is common, but this leads people to assuming they have SAD when they really might not.

The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, shows that the general population overemphasizes the effect cold weather has on depression levels. Participants from Oregon (206 males) and Iowa (556 males and females) conducted self-reports over a period of several years, noting depressive symptoms at various times of the day. Participants reported how they felt 10-19 times from ages 14 to 36 years, and at various times of the day. While 92 percent of people said that Researchers compared these reports with local weather conditions, specifically the amount of sunlight intensity at the times the reports were filled out.

Results showed a small increase in depression levels among participants, but it was much less than expected. People view the winter months as a period that will take them into feelings of sadness and intense depression, but this study shows quite the opposite. While being stuck inside on a rainy day can make us feel restless, bored, and even sad, it is encouraging to know that the weather alone won’t lead to clinical depression, and that we don’t have a reason to believe the weather has such a power on our moods and emotions.

Several previous studies ask participants to look in the past and discuss how they felt based on weather, according to Kerr as reported in Science Daily, an online source of research news. People tend to remember key events or moments of happiness or sadness. This method is problematic because it doesn’t adequately measure feelings of sadness with the weather of that time of day. Although only testing two regions of the United States, Kerr’s study showed that time of day or year didn’t make a huge impact on depression levels.

study on the suicide rate in Finland showed that winter months with less light contributed to increased number of suicides. Kerr protests that the Finland study might be different because of various biological conditions or the fact that Finland is located in an area with extreme sunlight shifts limited sunlight availability, which isn’t the case of Oregon or Iowa, where his recent study was conducted.

Did you get your free issue of the Intelligent Optimist?  Click here for a free download.

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