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The Effects of Daylight Savings on Mental Health

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

by Dusan Borovic

As we steadily trot into wintertime, we’ve tuned our clocks to adjust to Daylight Savings Time. Almost exclusively observed in North America and Europe (with the exception of some states/provinces), Daylight Savings aims to ‘gain one hour’ of sleep during the winter months. However, numerous psychologists and researchers are worried about the mental health effects daylight savings can have on people within the territories observing it.

The evident consequences of turning back our clock over the course of winter and spring are quite contrary to those intended. Researchers noted an increase in substance abuse and suicide during the time window of daylight savings. A particular increase in seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a talking point in cities such as San Diego, due to decreased hours of sunlight and vitamin D. Less time with sunlight has been noted to correlate with an increase in melancholic thoughts and feelings, as weather has proven importance in human moods and behavior.

A 2017 study published in Epidemiology, analyzing over 185,000 hospital contacts for depression, found that the transition from DST to standard time increased hospital visits by 11%. Scientists concluded this may be due to distress about an earlier sunset.

Many point out the positive economic effects of daylight savings, with industries such as tourism and outdoor recreation benefiting from a longer day. However, others counter this with the unequal justification of activities, in large part enjoyed by the upper class, for negative mental health ramifications for a worrying sum of the population.

Efforts to reverse daylight savings have taken place throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries. Federal approval would be needed for such a maneuver, with only Hawai’i and Arizona* not observing DST.

Daylight savings is argued to be ineffective in the modern world by experts and the general populace alike. It is necessary for lawmakers to reassess the contemporary relevance of this time adjustment in accordance with research. Additionally, isolating phenomena such as the coronavirus pandemic only exacerbate mental struggles, with DST adding more fuel to the fire. The future seems bleak for daylight savings time, as more consideration and resources are pointed towards the improvement of mental health care.

*With the exception of the Navajo Nation

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