Seasonal depression, otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or ‘SAD’ has always been thought to affect at least one in twenty people here in the UK. However, new evidence shows that in actual fact, it’s thought to affect a lot more, at least in small doses. The research, commissioned by The Weather Channel and YouGov found that women are 40 per cent more likely than men to experience symptoms of the condition, but that over 50% of adults across the board rated their mood as generally lower throughout the colder, darker months.

Winter blues

The common name, ‘winter blues’ sums up the ailment perfectly – it’s a sort of sadness brought on by the change in weather. According to the NHS, this is down to the reduced levels of lighting which in turn affects hormones in the body such as melanin and serotonin production. The shorter days mean that there’s less sunlight available, and so in many people, the hypothalamus stops working properly, which affects everything from your mood, to your sleeping habits and your appetite. People in the recent study reported lower energy levels, lower self-esteem as well as anxiety. For 8% of people, these are acute symptoms. The remaining 21% are said to suffer from a milder form of ‘subsyndromal’ SAD. As the winter draws ever closer and our clocks have already changed; it’s certainly not uncommon to feel worse than we did just a few months before. Help is available from GPs, and can include anything from cognitive behavioural therapy, antidepressants, light therapy and regular exercise.

Although the cause of SAD is thought to be the much lower levels of light, there is still a lot of unknown factors about the condition. Many experts recommend light therapy, for example, because it mimics the lighting conditions which lead to more positive thoughts in summer. Yet if moods can also be improved by changing thought patterns, there’s no reason to think that recreating other summery conditions won’t help. Something as simple as displaying some flowers in the home (Floric have some great ones, which can be delivered), or even injecting a splash of colour into your winter wardrobe, can make symptoms feel less heavy.

Whilst there are indeed simple tricks to try at home, it’s important not to let SAD be dismissed out of hand. There is some very real scientific evidence which proves its severity, and so undermining it does not serve anybody. Seek professional help if this condition proves out of hand for you or somebody you know.

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