Clinical depression affects approximately 20 percent of people at some point in their lives, and all of the reasons for this still are not clear. While researchers have correlated brain chemical levels with risk of depression, the reasons behind changing brain chemicals is often a mystery. Previous studies have shown that genetics may be a factor, being a woman is a risk factor, and people who suffer from serious loss, that of a spouse, child, or other loved one may be more at risk. Hormones have also been indicated in the risk of the development of clinical depression, including hormones found in birth control, according to the McGill Tribune. Many of these factors may be beyond one’s control, making them impossible to avoid.
Danish researchers have found what they believe may be another risk factor that can trigger depression, and it is also one that the population cannot control: the end of daylight savings time, according to Yahoo News.
Depression is thought to be linked to an imbalance of certain brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine, “feel good” chemicals that are often released during exercise and sexual activity, along with other activities. Symptoms of depression may vary from person to person, but most report feelings of sadness or hopelessness that last more than a week, feelings of worthlessness, frequent crying or irritability, a change in sleeping and eating habits, weight gain or loss, and loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable to the individual. Some cases of depression are severe enough to interfere with work, concentration, and may cause a person to move or talk more slowly than normal. Sometimes depressed people have thoughts of suicide.
Depression is a major cause of disability and lack of productivity in developed nations, and researchers are frequently looking for situations that may contribute to the development of depression.
It’s been found in previous research that exposure to sunlight may help people with depression and that people who live in areas where it is dark for longer periods of time are more likely to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is a form of depression caused by too little sunlight.
Professor Søren D. Østergaard and his research team from Aarhus University Hospital in Risskov, Denmark, analyzed 185,419 depression diagnoses that occurred between 1995 and 2012, making the study one that spanned nearly two decades of data. The study showed that the percentage of patients diagnosed with depression while inpatient at hospitals rises immediately after moving from daylight savings time to standard time. The number of cases of reported depression was eight percent higher than the control group. The study accounted for variables such as weather and temperature, and the team of researchers said that they felt confident that the rise was due to the change from daylight savings time to standard time.
Although the study could not pinpoint exactly why this may cause depression, researchers said they believe it is because Daylight Savings Time adds an hour of daylight to the morning, which many people may not benefit from because they are either sleeping or beginning their work or school day. Then, at the end of the day, when many individuals may have an opportunity to go outside in the sun, it has already grown dark. This means that most people experience a lack of sunlight directly as a result, which may change brain chemistry and may contribute to the development of clinical depression, particularly if other risk factors are present.
Researchers agree that getting up earlier to experience sunlight or to work or study by a window with copious amounts of sunlight may be advisable for those who are prone to depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy, medications, and lamp therapy have all been shown to be beneficial as well.
[Featured Image by Sarah Small/Getty Images]