Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? No, brain works better in winter, researchers say

File:A small cup of coffee.JPGFrom stalwart of science New York Mag:

But scientists are coming to realize that this might not be quite right. A pair of new studies challenge many of the popular assumptions about the psychological effects of wintertime, suggesting that we should look at the season in a new, brighter light. The weather might be gray and chilly, but the latest science says we humans are better at dealing with this than we usually give ourselves credit for, both in terms of our mood and the basic functioning of our brains.

The first study is a massive investigation published recently in Clinical Psychological Science involving 34,294 U.S. adults. It casts doubt on the very notion that depression symptoms are worse in the winter months.

Contrary to what you might think, the results provided no evidence whatsoever that people’s depression symptoms tended to be higher in winter — or at any other time of the year. This lack of a seasonal effect was true whether looking at the entire sample or only respondents with depressive symptoms. The respondents’ geographical latitude and sunlight exposure on the day of the survey were also unrelated to depression scores. More.

Retro Biscuit Tin

Even though they say it, it might be true. 😉 That said, one needs to be careful about any studies in the social sciences, as even “skeptic” Michael Shermer is discovering.

See also: Salt? We thought one needed to do more to be a denialist. Another biscuit?

  • ontario john

    But the Toronto Star has already explained that global warming causes mental illness. What better authority on mental illness than the Star. All one has to do is read Heather Mallick to see the effects.

  • BradThomas

    How do mammals typically respond to decreased amounts of daylight? They get sleepier and less active and some actually hibernate. Is it a big leap therefore to suspect humans might have similar tendencies? This is not the same as depression, obviously, but depression is typically associated with a slowing down, with lethargy and lack of energy.

    And I do believe rates of suicide and alcoholism, for example, for northern nations like Canada, Norway and Russia, correlate with latitude – in contrast to what this study seems to indicate. The further north you go, the more likely you are to see high suicide/alcoholism rates (and these two effect each other, of course, and are related to depression also). It could be that people are just bored, for example, in the long winters and take to drinking to pass the time, as much as anything else. But still, it is suggestive. Anyway, I think rather more evidence is required before the idea of SAD can be considered to be seriously discredited.

  • Xavier

    Winter is just an excuse for people to get in touch with their inner assholeishness and share it with the rest of us.

    • Clink9

      Why doesn’t everyone ski in the winter? The season just flies by.

      • Xavier

        Oh to be back in Breckenridge right now…

        • Clink9

          It’s on my list …

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  • favill

    I tracked deaths in the CF for four years and there was a marked increase in suicides starting in November and tapering off around March. It was not scientific by any means, one of my duties was to track CF personnel who died and the names and reason for death (KIA, accidental, suicide, natural causes, illness) would be presented to the CDS during his weekly meeting with his three star generals. I noticed death due to suicide increased in late November/early December…with the highest numbers occurring in January and February. It would start to taper off around March and it was rare for suicide to occur during the spring and summer months (deaths during this time-frame would be traffic accidents and the like).

  • andycanuck

    It’s just that no one gets depressed in Justin’s Canada!!!

  • Dana Garcia

    My brain wants to hibernate in winter, even at a mere 38 degrees North.

  • Minicapt

    Another study of studies, by non-math people.