Doctors explain how daylight savings can impact mental health

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – As we approach daylight saving time, we take a look at the symptoms of depression during the winter months.

Doctors at the University of Utah Health say the end of daylight-saving may intensify what’s called a seasonal affective disorder. S.A.D is a type of depression people may experience due to the change in seasons.

Jason Hunziker, MD is a Chief of Adult Psychiatry Division at Huntsman Mental Institute says, “usually what we see is in the fall and winter months patients who suffer from this type of depression end up with these depressive symptoms.”

Hunziker tells ABC4 that the symptoms are often seen more in women than men, and it typically starts when they are younger but comes and goes as they get older.

Ganel-Lyn Condie, an author, and a speaker says while people should check their mental health year-round, not just in the wintertime.

“For me, I shower every day, I get dressed every day, my mental health is something I check in with every day,” adds Condie.

Condie says she is also sensitive to the symptoms of seasonal depression, she tells ABC4 that she receives messages on social media from friends and colleagues who may also be struggling with depression who reach out for support and comfort.

“For me, mental health is every season of the year,” says Condie as she, as well as her colleagues, experienced the symptoms during the spring as well.

Jason Hunziker, MD at Huntsman Mental Institute tells ABC4, “people with seasonal affective disorder unfortunately often don’t get diagnosed unless their symptoms of depression get very severe.”

According to the University of Utah Health, in 2019 seasonal affective disorder impacted nearly 5% of the U.S. population. Dr. Jason Hunziker of the Huntsman Mental Institute tells me depression is not uncommon during Utah winters.

“Because of where we are we definitely have more of a depression during this time of year,” says Hunziker.

He says people who are sensitive to a lack of sunlight may suffer from increased symptoms of depression like feeling less energetic, having trouble sleeping, fluctuating weight, displeasure in activities, and being socially isolated.

“We end up isolating in the middle of winter or as the winter months approach and that’s the wrong thing to do,” shares Dr. Hunziker.

He says getting the smallest dose of sunlight, interacting with others, and maintaining a sensible diet are some things that could play a role in combatting depression in the winter months. Additionally, it’s important for family members and friends to recognize the signs when a loved one may be suffering silently. 

“If you know that you tend to experience seasonal depression, start preparing six to eight weeks prior to the time your symptoms usually start,” Hunziker says.

Doctors Say anyone feeling signs of depression should talk to their health provider and stress that there is no reason to suffer in the wintertime.

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