LONDON (24 October 2014) - As the clocks go back and the nights draw in, research conducted by The Weather Channel® and YouGov has found that 29% of the population suffers from a degree of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the winter. Of these, 8% consider that they suffer from diagnosed SAD – twice as high as previous reports suggest – and a further 21% consider that they suffer from a mild form of SAD – subsyndromal SAD.
Looking at how seasonal changes in the weather affect the UK, 57% of adults say their overall mood is worse in the winter season compared to the summer, with 66% of adults claiming their mood in the winter makes them feel less active. From all the symptoms of SAD, most participants (40%) said they suffered from fatigue more in the winter.
The research was commissioned to highlight how much of an impact the changeable weather has on the population’s wellbeing. The findings aim to stress the importance for businesses to implement measures to address SAD and mood-related syndromes to counteract loss of earnings in the winter months through employees taking increased sick leave. Most recent reports from the Health and Safety Execution state that ill health cost the economy £13.8 billion in 2010-2011*. The study also aims to raise awareness of increased diagnoses during the winter season to prepare the NHS for an influx of patients with symptoms and why they should action a SAD strategy and consult with weather experts to deal with the effects.
Despite a large representation of the UK suffering from levels of SAD, a very small proportion of people actually seek medical treatment or advice for their symptoms, showing that we do not do enough to reduce the effects or that UK citizens are embarrassed to admit to the affliction. Those that do, 8% sought medical treatment or advice for stress and anxiety.
When considering gender difference, women are 50% more likely to self-report SAD than men. From a regional perspective, 34% of Wales residents suffer from degrees of SAD, 33% of the South and 31% of Scotland.
Prof. Lance Workman (University of South Wales), psychologist on behalf of The Weather Channel, said: “Previous studies have suggested that the rate of SAD is around 3-4% of the population. This finding of a rate of 8% is quite striking and suggests this is a bigger problem than previously thought. Moreover, a rate of 21% reporting a lesser form of SAD (subsyndromal SAD) is also concerning and suggests that, rather than this being a rare problem, changes of mood in the winter months affects nearly one in three of the UK population”.
Ross Webster, managing director, EMEA, The Weather Channel, said: “The weather has a huge affect on all of our lives each day, from what we wear, to what we eat and where we go. Businesses all over the world use the weather forecast to optimise sales but not enough people consider the impact of the winter weather on our moods. The results of the survey demonstrate just how much of an impact it has on the population.”
Symptoms of SAD include:
- Low energy levels
- Trouble concentrating
- Greater appetite
- Increased desire to be alone
- Greater need for sleep
- Weight gain
- Low self-esteem
- Stress or anxiety
Recommended treatments of SAD include:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy
- Light therapy
- Self-help e.g. being outside, regular exercise, balanced diet
Please visit nhs.uk for more information on symptoms, treatment and how to get help for SAD.
*Health and Safety Executive: Costs to Britain of Workplace Injuries and Ill Health
Updated estimates show the total cost associated with workplace injuries and ill health in Great Britain in 2010/11 to be some £13.8 billion in 2011 prices. This is the most recent period for which full data are available
The definition of Seasonal Affective Disorder as described by NHS:
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern. The episodes of depression tend to occur at the same time each year, usually during the winter. As with other types of depression, the two main symptoms of SAD are a low mood and a lack of interest in life. Sufferers may also be less active than normal and sleep more.
- 29% of GB adults suffer from a degree of SAD
- 57% of GB adults say their overall mood is worse in the winter season compared to the summer season
- 66% of GB adults say their mood in the winter season makes them feel less active
- Women are 50% more likely to self-report SAD than men
Respondents suffer from the following more in the winter season:
- Low energy levels: 39%
- Trouble concentrating: 7%
- Fatigue: 40%
- Greater appetite: 27%
- Increased desire to be alone: 11%
- Greater need for sleep: 36%
- Weight gain: 30%
- Low self-esteem: 14%
- Stress or anxiety: 16%
Respondents have sought medical advice or treatment for the following during the winter seasons:
- Low energy levels: 4%
- Trouble concentrating: 2%
- Fatigue: 6%
- Greater appetite: 1%
- Increased desire to be alone: 2%
- Greater need for sleep: 3%
- Weight gain: 3%
- Low self-esteem: 3%
- Stress or anxiety: 8%
Regional breakdown of participants who suffer from a degree of SAD:
- North: 27%
- Midlands: 26%
- East: 28%
- London: 27%
- South: 33%
- Wales: 34%
- Scotland: 31%
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