Is Daylight Saving Time to Blame for Seasonal Depression?

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iStock

The precise root cause of seasonal depression has eluded scientists for years. Now researchers think they’ve found the answer: daylight saving time. They published their report in the journal Epidemiology.

Seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects around 1.6 billion people across the globe. Its symptoms mirror those of generalized depression; what differentiates SAD is the timing of its onset, which coincides with winter’s shorter days and long, dark nights.

We know that sunlight, or the absence of it, has a powerful effect on our bodies. But scientists have yet to find a definitive physiological link between darkness and SAD, a fact that makes some wonder if there aren’t other variables at play.

Previous studies have found a relationship between the shift from daylight saving into standard time and other health problems, but they had not looked specifically at the transition’s effect on depression. To get a better idea, an international team of researchers looked at Danish hospital intake records from 1995 to 2012, including 185,419 diagnoses of depression.

As expected, they saw an increase in hospital admissions for depression as winter descended. But that increase spiked at one particular time: the month immediately following the changing of clocks.

The researchers controlled for variables like day length and weather, which they say confirms that the 8 percent rise in depression diagnoses was not a coincidence.

And while their study focused on people with severe depression, the authors say the time shift likely affects “the entire spectrum of severity."

Though the study did not identify the mechanism responsible for time change–related depression, the researchers believe it may have something to do with the way daylight saving manipulates our hours of light and dark. Danish daylight saving protocol steals an hour of daylight from the afternoon and moves it to the early morning—a time, the authors say, when most people are indoors anyway.

"We probably benefit less from the daylight in the morning between seven and eight, because many of us are either in the shower, eating breakfast or sitting in a car or bus on the way to work or school. When we get home and have spare time in the afternoon, it is already dark," co-author Søren D. Østergaard of Aarhus University Hospital said in a statement.

Then there are the psychological effects. In changing the clocks, we are forced to acknowledge the arrival of months of darkness, a realization that Østergaard says “is likely to be associated with a negative psychological effect.”

Fortunately, while we still don’t fully understand the causes of SAD, we have found effective treatments. If you find yourself depressed as the year winds down, talk to your doctor and look into a therapeutic light box.

Michigan Hospital’s Neonatal ICU Is in Need of Volunteer ‘Baby Cuddlers’

barsik/iStock via Getty Images
barsik/iStock via Getty Images

You don’t have to be an empty-nester impatiently waiting for grandkids to feel the urge to cuddle a newborn baby. And, unless you or a loved one happens to be raising a baby at the moment, the opportunity doesn’t arise all that often. But if you live in Michigan and have a little extra time on your hands, now is your chance to get the snuggle action that you (and the babies) have been craving.

MLive reports that Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw, Michigan, is looking for volunteers to cuddle, rock, and soothe babies in its Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It’s no surprise that the hospital takes the safety of its patients—especially infants—very seriously: All applicants must pass a background check, interview, and extensive training before gaining access to the NICU.

You’ll also have to make at least a year-long commitment to volunteer for four hours on a weekly or biweekly basis. Though the NICU staff could use volunteers every hour of every day, right now they only need people to sign up for the graveyard shift—between midnight and 8 a.m.

If staying up past your bedtime once a week sounds like a reasonable trade-off for four hours of tender, loving care and that sweet baby smell, you can apply on Covenant HealthCare’s website here.

Wondering why you now feel the urge to move to Saginaw just so you can cuddle Covenant’s newborns? You can blame evolution. Newborns aren’t so supremely snuggle-worthy just because they’re often soft and doughy; they also have large, round eyes and tiny noses, mouths, and chins. This configuration of facial features is called kinderschema, and it activates our instinct to nurture and protect, giving our species the best chance of survival. You can read more about it here.

[h/t MLive]

A Custom Wheelchair Allowed This Brain-Injured Baby Raccoon to Walk Again

фотограф/iStock via Getty Images
фотограф/iStock via Getty Images

Animal prosthetics and wheelchairs allow dogs, cats, and even zoo animals with limited mobility to walk again, but wild animals with disabilities aren't usually as lucky. Vittles, a baby raccoon rescued in Arkansas, is the rare example of an animal that was severely injured in its natural habitat getting a second shot at life.

As Tribune Media Wire reports, Vittles came to wildlife rehab specialist Susan Curtis, who works closely with raccoons for the state of Arkansas, with a traumatic brain injury at just 8 weeks old. The cause of the trauma wasn't clear, but it was obvious that the raccoon wouldn't be able to survive on her own if returned to the wild.

Curtis partnered with the pet mobility gear company Walkin' Pets to get Vittles back on her feet. They built her a tiny custom wheelchair to give her balance and support as she learned to get around on her own. The video below shows Vittles using her legs and navigating spaces with help from the chair and guidance from her caretaker.

Vittles will likely never recover fully, but now that she's able to exercise her leg muscles, her chance at one day moving around independently is greater than it would have been otherwise. She now lives with her caretaker Susan and a 10-year old raccoon with cerebral palsy named Beetlejuice. After she's rehabilitated, the plan is to one day make her part of Arkansas's educational wildlife program.

[h/t Tribune Media Wire]

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