It’s around the time of the year when people start to talk about seasonal changes to their mood and energy level — most commonly, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. While SAD is a relatively new condition — it stems from research in the ‘80s — it has become a huge part of how we in the colder climes discuss winter.
Everyone knows how winter affects certain people:
It lowers their mood, makes them more prone to depression, and, in some cases, slows their mind to a crawl. There’s a reason for the popular image of someone wanting to just curl up in bed to wait out the duration of a frigid February afternoon.
But scientists are coming to realize that this might not be quite right. A pair of new studies challenge many of the popular assumptions about the psychological effects of wintertime, suggesting that we should look at the season in a new, brighter light. The weather might be gray and chilly, but the latest science says we humans are better at dealing with this than we usually give ourselves credit for, both in terms of our mood and the basic functioning of our brains.
The first study is a massive investigation published recently in Clinical Psychological Science involving 34,294 U.S. adults. It casts doubt on the very notion that depression symptoms are worse in the winter months.
The researchers, led by Professor Steven LoBello at Auburn University at Montgomery, asked their participants to complete a questionnaire about their depression symptoms over the previous two weeks. Crucially, the participants all completed the survey at different times of the year, allowing the researchers to look for any seasonal patterns.