Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, winter blues, summer melancholy or seasonal depression, is a mood disturbance with a seasonal pattern, typically occurring in autumn and winter with remission in spring or summer. Symptoms of SAD are likely to be worse during winter, particularly In the UK and Ireland, because we are more susceptive to SAD, as we are located in the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere. According to The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA), there are 21% of the UK population that suffers from Sub-syndromal SAD or Winter Blues such as anxiety and mood disorder but this is not serious suffering, there are 8%, of symptoms of SAD which is a serious illness which prevents normal function without appropriate treatment.
So why do we suffer particularly in winter? The reason behind these issues is that in winter the primary cause of the condition is loss of sunlight. Other reasons also include a cloudy or rainy day and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. An enormous amount of research into the effects of seasons on health has been conducted over the last few decades, into the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, including: feeling depressed, losing interest in activities you once enjoyed, low energy, difficulties sleeping at night, experiencing changes in your appetite or body weight, feeling sluggish or agitated, having problems concentrating, feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty that can progress to having frequent thoughts of death or suicide.
Specific symptoms caused by winter-onset related to SAD are oversleeping, taste changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates, which can lead to weight gain and tiredness or low energy. People can also have symptoms of SAD in spring or summer, sometimes called summer depression. Those symptoms include trouble sleeping (also known as insomnia) and a poor appetite that can lead to weight loss and agitation or anxiety. According to the National Health Service (NHS) reference needed and other clinical health services such as Mayo Clinic, a non-profit medical practice and medical research group base in United States, sleep disorders and sleeplessness, also known as insomnia, are described as having difficulties falling asleep, or staying asleep. These symptoms are typically followed by daytime sleepiness, low energy, and a depressed mood. These symptoms need to be treated by either changing your lifestyle by being exposed to natural sunlight as much as possible or using a medically certified SAD therapeutic light. They can also be treated by medical supplements such as antibiotics that increase sensitivity to light, supplements give you vitamins and minerals that you may have a shortage of but this should be administered only by qualified professionals.
A book was published in The Guilford Press ”winter blues: seasonal affective disorder: what it is and how to overcome it” by Dr Norman E. Rosenthal reference needed a psychiatrist and scientist who first started working to describe winter depression in 2000. His description of winter depression shows that there are three key issues that cause depression in SAD. One of the issues are ”Inherent Vulnerability”, a theory have been proven that SAD runs in families genes. He also explains that most families have at least one family member with a history of depression (often SAD).
Dr Norman E. Rosenthal explains that SAD involves all types of people and that females are most vulnerable as they are about four times as likely to develop (SAD), than men are. We still do not know why women are more likely to be diagnosed with SAD than men but a theory developed by Dr Norman E. Rosenthal, is that it could be caused by the cyclical secretion of the female sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone.
His theory was supported by Professor of psychiatry, Siegfried Kasper at the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the Medical University of Vienna. Professor Siegfried Kasper also conducted research on the relationship between seasonal changes in women and the secretion of female sex hormones. He found that women in their twenties and their forties demonstrated a greater tendency to seasonal changes. An article was published in May 2011 by Harvard Health on ”Women and depression” which explains that women have higher rates of seasonal affective disorder, depressive symptoms in bipolar disorder, and dysthymia (chronic depression) than men and that it is not yet clear what causes the gender gap in symptoms.
The second issue described by Dr Norman E. Rosenthal is Environmental Consideration. This involves ”Light Deprivation”, a lack of sunlight that causes a person to feel depressed and have low energy, similar to the symptoms of winter blues. Light deprivation may occur at any time of the year and can even occur when you move from a light area to a darker area.
An Article published in the Independent by O’Sullivan reference and first name, describes the City of Aberdeen as ”Britain’s saddest city” because of the gloomy, cold, dark and windy weather. As we know the UK and Ireland are located in the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere where there is less daylight in winter. The City of Aberdeen particularly shows the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder according to ”The British Journal of Psychiatry on SAD”, reference especially in winter months, as residents tend to go to work in the dark gloomy morning and come home in the darkness of night. The article describes this as modern living in the City of Aberdeen that is likely to develop the symptoms of SAD including lethargy and Loss of libido.
Light deprivation is not the only environmental issue that can cause depression in the wintertime. Dr Norman E. Rosenthal explains that the last issue contributing to the development of depression in SAD is stress. Stress is one of the main effects of SAD. Typically stress occurs at work or home, and can particularly affect people that work in an office work for long hours and do shift work. It can also be caused by problems with the working environment such as noise, temperature, overcrowding and poor lighting.
Light impacts people in many different ways and it can seriously affect a person’s wellbeing. Special lighting can help a person’s well-being. Russell Foster, a Professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford University, published an article in 2013 on ”Light, body clocks and sleep”. He explained that sitting next to the office window could improve wellbeing and that exposure to bright light helps to regulate our sleep, raises productivity level, improves our mood and can reduce difficulty sleeping at night. A walk in the bright morning sunlight for 30-minutes could help adjust your body clock and ensure a better night’s rest. Professor Russell Foster, reference describes how the brightness of sunlight is equivalent to 100,000 lux. Exposure to sunlight helps regulate our body clock and many aspects of our health. This means that natural light is crucial to our health. Working beside the window will allow natural light to increase our maximum alertness while working in the office.
Dr Norman E. Rosenthal explains the importance of natural light in the workspace and discusses his research about how workers work from early morning to late nights and how they sometimes work overtime at offices. He goes on to explain that they will probably suffer from SAD during late autumn or early wintertime, which will likely become more severe as the winter progresses. SAD will mostly affect people living in dark areas and people labouring for long hours in the dark, including gloomy workplaces.
Further research by Dr Norman E. Rosenthal on winter blues, explains the negative effects of having tinted-glass windows which were included in offices constructed in earlier decades. Workers who work near the window soon realised that there are medical and psychological benefits from having access to natural light. But fixed tinted-windows are now viewed with displeasure by the employees who have laboured in the unnatural glow of sunlight, transmitted through the tinted-windows. The tinted windows change the characteristics and the amount of sunlight that comes through the window glass to the workplaces.
These results can generate an effect on the motivation and efficiency of the workers, but these issues typically occur during the sunnier days of spring and summer.
There are also benefits of having tinted-windows. Most of the all glass buildings have film on the windows, because of the research into enhancing well-being in the workplace. Most companies that produce window film can customise the colour and thickness of the film. This can help to reduce glare and halos that contribute to near-sightedness and farsightedness, which are difficulties in focusing on objects far away and close up respectively. A project was completed in 2015, by an architect called Jeffrey Inaba, from a Design agency based in New York. The project for red bull’s new headquarters in New York City, was to design a workspace that reflects on classic modernist styles. Architect Jeffrey Inaba used colourful film on the glass walls and windows to create vivid hues see figure 1, which produce the result of glazing with shimmering psychedelic shades when sunlight passes through the tinted glass.
The creativity that was practised by architect Jeffrey Inaba, using the spectrum colours to improve lighting, including balancing the brightness and temperature of the sunlight by using a window film, has received positive feedback from the employees and visitors to the building. This was published in an article in on-office magazine on 22 Feb 2015, reference. It highlighted his use of different techniques to manipulate colours and improve wellbeing in the workspace by using urban and modernist interiors to eliminate the typical office look. However this kind of window film only works on sunny days, mainly in summer where natural light is brighter and has a warmer temperature appearance, which wintertime sunlight lacks.