At 2 a.m. this coming Sunday, March 13, households across North America and in 70 countries around the world will be setting their clocks forward an hour to account for Daylight Savings Time. But is “springing forward” every March and “falling back” each November really worth it?
Daylight Savings Time was originally proposed in 1784 by Benjamin Franklin in an effort to conserve energy — and candles — in the morning hours, but it didn’t come into effect in Canada and the United States until after the First World War. However, not all parts of North America practice Daylight Savings Time. Most of Saskatchewan and parts of British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec refuse to spring forward or fall back, as do the states of Arizona and Hawaii. Now, many people, scientists, and researchers are asking if continuing the practice of Daylight Savings Time is necessary or even safe.
According to Global News, University of British Columbia economist Werner Antweiler weighed the good and bad of Daylight Savings Time and says there are numerous reasons to abolish it, not least of which is the fact that one experiment done by the state of Indiana a decade ago showed that the practice doesn’t, in fact, reduce energy use. Instead, it actually causes people to use more energy. While the experiment did find a slight decrease in the use of electric lighting, there was actually an increase in the use of air conditioners during summer nights and in the use of heating during chilly fall mornings.
Psychiatry professor Roger Godbout, of the University of Montreal, calls it a “public health issue.”
“Daylight saving time is a public health issue in many ways. It has an effect on some peoples’ sleep patterns and their internal clocks, which then, of course, has other consequences.”
The consequences Godbout speaks of can be seen in the days after the March time change, according to many studies. In March 2014, a study was presented to the American College of Cardiology based on data collected from Michigan hospitals between 2010 and 2013 that found a significant rise in the number of patients admitted to hospitals suffering from heart attacks on the Monday following the spring Daylight Savings Time — a 25 percent increase, to be exact.
A 2012 study done by the University of Alabama at Birmingham indicated a 10 percent increase in the risk of having a heart attack in the 48 hours following the March time change, reports CBC News. The same study found a 10 percent decrease in heart attack risk after we “fall back” to Standard time in November. The study correlates these surges and declines of risk with losing and subsequently gaining an extra hour of sleep each Spring and Fall.
It’s not just the risk of heart attacks that is escalated during the days following Daylight Savings Time. A recent study published this month by Finnish doctors at the University of Turku found an 8 percent rise in ischemic strokes in the two days following the Spring time change.
Daylight Savings Time also seems to affect road safety. According to a 2014 study by the University of Colorado, a 17 percent spike in traffic accident-related deaths occurred on the Monday following the March time change. Manitoba Public Insurance in Manitoba, Canada, corroborated this study after they found a 20 percent increase in car accidents on Manitoba roads on the Monday following the time change when compared to all other Mondays of the year. Similar results were found in research done by the University of British Columbia, says sleep expert Stanley Coren of the university.
“We live in a society that is chronically sleep-deprived, and very bad things happen when chronic sleep deprivation is an issue. Looking at different types of accidents, we found a five to seven per cent increase in accident fatalities during the three days following spring daylight saving time.”
Do you think Daylight Savings Time is necessary? Sound off in the comments below.
[Photo by Charlie Riedel/AP]