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Time Change and Depression

Posted November 14, 2016 12:00 AM by M-ReeD

We survived it. Our first full week of standard time (marking an end to daylight saving time). Sure there were bumps along the way, but we made it. Now begins the time of year where the arguments in favor of making daylight saving time permanent start. Undoubtedly, you’ve already heard all of the complaints: “I won’t see the light of day until March.” “I am so tired, I could go back to sleep.” “Everything is so dark and depressing.”

According to a study by scientists in Denmark, these complaints and the feelings surrounding time change are directly related to the actual time change itself and not to the oncoming winter months, as previously thought. The study found that there is an 8% increase in depression diagnoses occuring closely to the fall time change. Unsurprisingly, those numbers drop in time for the start of daylight saving time, which begins in March.

The arguments in favor of a permanent daylight saving time are many. Our internal clocks are thrown off, affecting both our health and our judgment; our weight can be affected (usually negatively); our feelings of despair and loneliness tend to increase; crime rates go up because most crimes take place in the dark. Researchers also argue that forcing a time change may have long-term health effects with an increased risk of strokes and heart attacks; also, the decreased visibility due to an earlier sunset lends to an increase in auto fatalities.

The shift in time leaves us with one less hour of sunlight (which is the ultimate treatment for depression, according to multiple studies). And, although we gain an extra hour of sunlight in the morning as a result of the time change, it does not effectively make up for the lost hour in the evening because most of us are preoccupied with getting ready for the day to come.

Farming and energy concerns have been previous explanations for continuing with the time change practice. But with the technology available to aid in milking cows and other farm chores, it no longer seems to be a compelling argument. Artificial light has also opened up a world of possibility in terms of activites that can take place long after the sun has set.

Another often-touted benefit of the time change is that extra hour of sleep we are “front loaded” in November when we set our clocks back. But, according to researchers, the extra hour is a myth that has no proven benefit unless you consider that disoriented feeling we have in the days following a time change beneficial.

While the study also suggests that people who are predisposed to depression were more likely to grapple with this time-change related depression, there are ways to help combat it.

Some recommended ways to stave off time-change related depression: Invest in a light box; adjust your schedule so that you can be outside for at least 30 minutes a day; exercise; eat well; establish a schedule; sit by a window with access to natural light; maximize time spent outdoors, regardless of temperature; and stay in touch with your social network.

Personally, while the practice is disorienting and endlessly aggravating what with having to fix clocks and retrain your body, there are also benefits: There is no obligation to go anywhere once you have left work for the day. (Assuming you work a 9-5 shift.) You are not obligated to leave your house to do yardwork or other outdoor activities. Also, the social expectations of you diminish considerably. So go put on some pajama pants, watch that Lifetime movie, and eat whatever you want. After all, no one is really going to be seeing much of you until March…for now.

What do you think? Are you in favor of keeping a time change?

Image credit:

Matteo Ianeselli / CC BY-SA 3.0

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#1

Re: Time Change and Depression

11/14/2016 11:18 AM

Unless you're retired, the extra hour of daylight in the spring, summer, and autumn is nice for getting yard work done after work.

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Guru

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#5
In reply to #1

Re: Time Change and Depression

11/15/2016 1:32 AM

Getting in touch with nice conversation in cr4 is an anti-depression therapy, don't you think? So long as,... you learn to tame Lyn(sarcasm)

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#7
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Re: Time Change and Depression

11/16/2016 11:31 AM

Well yes, even if you are retired, and the benefit of double summertime all year round would be even better.

In the UK it is apparently the Scottish farmers that object to this move. They only have themselves to blame for teaching the cows to read the clock.

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#2

Re: Time Change and Depression

11/14/2016 12:57 PM

Interesting -- and counterintuitive -- that the depression isn't caused by less daylight but by the time change itself. As I recall, the spring time change has deleterious effects as well. I'd be for staying on DST all year round. I'd much rather get up in the dark and have a little more light at the end of the day.

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Re: Time Change and Depression

11/14/2016 3:06 PM

I get depressed having to turn all of our chiming clocks 11 hours ahead. (The pendulum clocks I just stop and come back an hour later.)

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#6
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Re: Time Change and Depression

11/15/2016 7:26 PM

ME TOO.

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#4

Re: Time Change and Depression

11/14/2016 10:23 PM

The depression this year stems from the election results, not the time shift.

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