For people who suffer from seasonal depression, winter can mean more than unforgiving temperatures and gusts of cold wind – it can actually affect their physical and emotional well-being. If gloomy days are affecting your mood and making you feel sad or tired, you’re not alone.
More than 10 per cent of Americans complain that fewer daylight hours and long chilly nights can trigger a sense of hopelessness in them which affects their energy levels throughout the day. Now, a new research is showing that the symptoms of seasonal depression aren’t the same across all genders.
The Truth Behind Your ‘Winter Blues’
According to researchers from University of Glasgow, the symptoms of seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) are far worse in women than in men. Most people tend to feel some melancholy during extremely low temperatures, but despite feeling blue, they are able to carry out day-to-day activities, unlike those who suffer from a strange form of clinical depression which is only triggered by a change in weather and is much worse in winters than during any other season.
Although this condition is relatively rare, it tends to affect a greater number of people in areas with less sunlight and longer winters. For example, researchers have estimated that at least 10 per cent of people living in Alaska suffer from the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder which include mood swings, fatigue, overeating and concentration problems.
Are the SAD Symptoms Gender Specific?
The study, first published in Journal of Affective Disorders, was led by author and member of Glasgow’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing, Daniel Smith, who said that the symptoms of SAD commonly begin to show during fall and become more severe in winter.
In order to determine how these symptoms can vary between men to women, Smith and his team conduced an in-depth analysis using 150,000 participants across U.K. who were members of the UK Biobank, a health resource which provides database for 500,000 people in UK.
The cross-sectional study conducted by the Smith studied the depressive symptoms such as overeating, lethargy, and sadness in each participant during all four seasons and tried to establish a link between the symptoms and external environmental factors such as outdoor temperatures and total daylight hours.
When the results were plotted on a chart, a clear trend showed that as the temperature and daylight decreased, the SAD symptoms became more severe – but their intensity was not the same across both genders. Female participants in the study experienced a variation in seasonal depressive symptoms whereas men typically didn’t.
Genetic Difference between Both Genders Could Cause Varying Symptoms
The intensity of SAD symptoms such as fatigue and anhedonia, was more likely to fluctuate in women, getting more severe in winter and almost completely subsiding during summer, according to researchers’ findings.
The study also showed that these depressive symptoms lingered despite the participants’ lifestyle which meant that even those who exercised daily, ate well and avoided smoking or drinking fell victim to SAD. The same severity of depressive symptoms was not observed in male participants, leading the researchers to believe that women were more affected by SAD than their male counterparts.
Daylight Is a Better Indicator of SAD than Temperature
The depressive symptoms noted in the study were mostly self-reported where women admitted to experiencing more fatigue than men as the days became shorter. Interestingly, the symptoms didn’t become as worse with a decrease in temperatures, indicating that SAD is more dependent on the length of the day and the amount of daylight than the outdoor temperatures.
Previous studies in the field of depression and emotional disorders have also reported that women tend to show greater symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety than men do. Smith says that the reason for this variation isn’t clear at this point, but his team speculates that the symptoms could be dependent on gender-specific biological mechanism. The author admits that SAD is still a relatively new field of study which requires further research and investigation.