Does winter cause depression?

Winter has received the reputation as being the season of depression and gloominess. Winter is cold, bleak, and many people tend to spend most of their time inside wishing that it was summer, or spring. Adults will stare out their office windows and think about the tragic traffic they will be in from a recent snow storm and children will look out their school window wishing they could go out and play for recess. These thoughts ultimately lead to sadness, because they will be doing things they are forced to do based on the cold winter weather. Depression is a psychological condition that leads to immense sadness, loss of happiness and pleasure, lack of sleep, and a blank attitude. According to psychologist Steven Lobello of Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama, rates of depression does not necessarily change due to seasonal changes. Symptoms do not magnify or become more evident either.

Depression is a disorder that once is gone, can come right back. It can spring up in two successive winters, but that can be by chance. The reverse causality of this topic has to be ruled out. Just because someone is depressed during the winter, does not mean that winter has caused the sadness. Studies conducted by Kelly Rohan of the University of Vermont that looked at children, teens, and adults living in the United States and Europe, showed something else linking to depression during the winter. It is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), that is a condition linked to depression. The depression symptoms of SAD are less intense than those suffering with nonseasonal depression. Basing off of surveys, she has sad that SAD is within 1 and 3 percent os US and Canada adults.

LoBello believed that SAD studies were improper. He took matters into his own hands and studied depression linked with seasonal pattern. Him and his investigators looked at data from 34,294 US adults and surveyed them by phone as well during 2006. People that were surveyed in the winter did not report more depression than the other people surveyed in other seasons.

A third variable that can be linked to depression is sunlight. The exposure to light comes from research in 1997 that studied people from different parts of the world with a variety of latitudes. The studies found that depression in the winter time skyrocket because people sleep through the sunlight. This does not mean that winter causes depression, the sunlight is just a factor. Minimal exposure to the natural light leads moods to decline. In order to help ease depression or SAD researchers have concluded that morning exposure to light can help increase moods. In anĀ article it is said that in higher latitude areas winter days are shorter thus leading to a decline in exposure to sunlight. This goes against the idea that winter does not cause depression. If exposure to light decreases depression and winter time does not have an ideal amount of light, more people will be gloomy and dull.

In conclusion, there are many theories and beliefs about whether or not winter causes depression. I do not believe that the season itself causes depression, but the limited sunlight is a factor. A seasonal affective disorder is a better way to describe the mood changes when the season changes to winter, not depression.

3 thoughts on “Does winter cause depression?

  1. dhc5097

    The study that you used in your blog was very interesting at the fact that the researches concluded that minimal exposure to natural light leads to a mood decline. I never thought waking up in the morning to the bright sun could increase my mood. I personally seem to be more happier in the summer time when the sun is shining. This study is similar to an article I came across that showed that certain colors affected your mood. The article explained that the colors, red and violet were great for energy, the color blue is great for relaxation and the colors, green and yellow lead to happiness. The brighter the color the happier the individual, the brighter the sun the happier the individual. Here’s the article discussing how colors boost your mood.,,20411073,00.html

  2. Maria Jean Conti

    I feel like this is an example where you can completely rule out reverse causation, because obviously depression is not causing the winter. But that doesn’t make solving this question any easier. There are so many possible third variables, and because cases of depression are so different for each person, it’s very hard to look at one study and make conclusions. There may be correlation but it would be very difficult to prove causation.

  3. Shannon Hughes

    I think the study you included was very interesting and showed strong evidence of how people’s metabolism vary. However, a factor that I believe should have been included was specifications of those in the trial. Their genders, race, height, and previous health all could have greatly impacted the results and therefore should have been mentioned.

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