MAR 08, 2017 7:57 AM PST

Turning the Clock Back Can Trigger Depression

In a few weeks, the clocks will be changed and daylight-saving time will begin. While the annual “Spring forward” of the clock means an hour less of sleep, the benefits of more daylight hours cannot be denied. Daylight-saving time was initially begun to give people more sunlight hours after work and eventually it was credited with saving energy costs as well. The opposite happens in the fall however, when clocks are turned backwards. Both time changes have been associated with various health issues, sleep disturbances and other adjustment issues, but new research shows that turning the clocks back in autumn, could trigger depression.
A study recently published in the journal Epidemiology looked at the number of people diagnosed with depression at psychiatric hospitals in Denmark. Analyzing a lot of data, the study showed increases in depressive episodes immediately after the transition from daylight-saving time to standard time. It started quickly too. In the study, diagnoses of depression rose 8% in the first month following the change. The study data and analysis was generated through the use of 185,419 depression cases registered in The Central Psychiatric Research Register in Denmark between 1995 and 2012. Researchers do not believe that the increase can be a coincidence since the timing and amount of cases is glaring.
 
Associate Professor Søren D. Østergaard from Aarhus University Hospital in Risskov, which is part of The Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University was one of the lead researchers on the study. He stated, "We are relatively certain that it is the transition from daylight saving time to standard time that causes the increase in the number of depression diagnoses and not, for example, the change in the length of the day or bad weather. In fact, we take these phenomena into account in our analyses.” The team in Denmark collaborated with the psychiatry and political science departments at both the University of Copenhagen and Stanford University. The data was taken from patients who mostly had pretty severe forms of depression, but the authors of the study believe that cases of milder depression are also related to the change.
 
When the time changes in the fall, there is more daylight at an earlier time in the day, around 7-8am. Many people are still at home getting ready for work, or commuting to work at this time, whereas in the afternoon during daylight-saving time, it can get dark as early as 4pm in some areas, a time when many are still working. Coming out to a dark world every day after work can be a depression trigger for some.
 
Part of the rise in cases might also be due to the knowledge most patients have that the darker afternoons signal the coming of winter and a long period of darkness. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is common as well at this time of year, and some people start to feel worse emotionally as the daylight decreases. Suggestions to offset the winter blues include using a special sunlamp to catch some rays indoors, adjusting schedules and going outdoors whenever possible to take advantage of daylight hours. Keeping more lighting on in the house is another  way to cope. For more information on the time change and what the study could mean for those who may have a tendency towards seasonal depression, take a look at the video below.
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
FEB 28, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
FEB 28, 2020
How Dietary Supplement Citicoline Improves Memory
For some time now, Citicoline has been known for its ability to improve memory and reduce cognitive decline. A primary i ...
MAR 13, 2020
Technology
MAR 13, 2020
Advancing Brain-Machine Interfaces
At Stanford University, researchers have designed a device that connects the brain to silicon-based technologies. Althou ...
MAY 02, 2020
Immunology
MAY 02, 2020
Cellular "Cleaning Crews" Get Busy During Spinal Cord Injury
  Nerve cells transmit and receive information traversing the human body in the form of electrical impulses. These ...
MAY 04, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
MAY 04, 2020
Can Cannabis Improve Chronic Insomnia?
Around 30% of Americans have insomnia. A serious problem, researchers have found that cannabis products may be able to h ...
MAY 25, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
MAY 25, 2020
FDA Approves the First Treatment for Neurofibromatosis 1
In a major breakthrough, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a treatment for a genetic disorder called neurofi ...
MAY 26, 2020
Neuroscience
MAY 26, 2020
Alzheimer's Gene Doubles Risk of Severe COVID-19
Researchers from the University of Exeter, England, and the University of Connecticut have found that people carrying fa ...
Loading Comments...