Even if the aptly named SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, has been heavily publicized as a common side-effect of the colder seasons, depression linked to season changes might be just an urban legend, according to a new study. Said analysis was carried out at Montgomery’s Auburn University in Alabama.
The concept that almost everyone feels somewhat depressed during winter, the effect of SAD, was based on the idea that colder weather and lack of sunshine alter the amounts of various hormones present in our system. The main culprit of this disorder is the perturbation of melatonin production, a hormone that is used in regulating moods and emotions.
Our circadian rhythm is also heavily affected by the lack of sun and light exposure during the cold season, which in turn diminishes the release of the happiness hormone, serotonin. The alteration in these two hormones’ production rates has been considered to be the basis of SAD by psychologists for decades up to this point.
But some people are actually happier during the winter season. Who doesn’t like sitting snugly in an armchair listening to music and drinking some hot chocolate while outside snow falls gently upon the ground? Plus, winter comes with Christmas and New Year celebrations in tow, events that are commonly associated with happiness, family gatherings and a plethora of parties.
During this study revolving around SAD, the research team analyzed previous statistics released by the American Academy of Family Physicians. Around 6% of US citizens were found to suffer from seasonal mood changes, while 0.3% of them were diagnosed with SAD. Even if these numbers are rather low, the team has claimed that the statistics in question are actually considerably overblown.
Another survey was taken into account, a study that encompassed over 34,000 US citizens. In this analysis, participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire focused on how many events caused them to feel distressed in past weeks. When comparing answers from Summer and Winter, the research team found no obvious disparity.
The idea that depression linked to season changes might be just an urban legend was backed by a follow-up study involving people diagnosed with clinical depression as well. No improvements or downgrades in regards to their general mood were found during seasonal changes at all, making SAD appear more like a heavily marketed form of depression, a fabrication, instead of actually being a real disorder.