Depression and Changing the Clocks


Feeling a little more depressed and sleepy than usual? Putting the clocks back could be the reason.

“The year has 16 months: November, December, January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, November, November, November,” writes the Danish poet Henrik Nordbrandt in a disheartening comment on the month we have just entered: November.

And since daylight savings time is coming up this weekend, I wondered if and how folks are affected by the change in the light.  I know I always notice by August that the light has begun to change. Now there is research to back up this long-held belief of mine.

According to Science Daily, a recently published study documents that the number of people who are diagnosed with depression at psychiatric hospitals in Denmark increases immediately after the transition from daylight saving time to standard time. More specifically, the number of depression diagnoses during the month after the transition from daylight saving time is approximately 8% higher than expected, based on the development in the number of diagnoses up to the transition.

The study is based on analysis of 185,419 depression diagnoses registered in The Central Psychiatric Research Register between 1995 and 2012.

Søren D. Østergaard is one of the five researchers behind the study, which is the result of a collaboration between departments of psychiatry and political science at the universities of Aarhus, Copenhagen and Stanford.

“We probably benefit less from the daylight in the morning between seven and eight, because many of us are either in the shower, eating breakfast or sitting in a car or bus on the way to work or school. When we get home and have spare time in the afternoon, it is already dark,” he explains.

“Furthermore, the transition to standard time is likely to be associated with a negative psychological effect as it very clearly marks the coming of a period of long, dark and cold days,” says Østergaard.

I found this to be extremely interesting because I always await the Winter Solstice on December 21 which marks the beginning of the increase of light. Take heart! At least now you know that science is backing us up when we react to the change from daylight savings time. And don’t forget about the loved ones who also suffer from depression; you might want to be especially gentle with them next week.