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Seasonal affective disorder affects women more than men

Monday 15th January 2018
Women are more susceptible to low moods and seasonal affective disorder during the winter months than their male counterparts, new research shows. Image: stevanovicigor via iStock
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Women are more likely to experience changes in their moods during the winter months than men, according to new research.

Scientists from the University of Glasgow have been exploring seasonal affective disorders and found that women are significantly more likely than their male counterparts to experience low moods and other symptoms relating to depression at certain times of year.

The researchers analysed data relating to over 150,000 people obtained via the UK BioBank project for their study, giving each individual a score for their 'total depressive symptoms', which was based on factors such as feelings of low mood, additional tiredness and feeling unusually tense in relation to the seasons.

They also looked at whether patients were suffering from anhedonia, which is the scientific name for losing interest in activities that they once found enjoyable.

It was found that women were much more likely than men to feel low or depressed in the winter, with shorter days the greatest contributing factor to these symptoms.

Study author Professor Daniel Smith commented: "This very large, population-based study provides evidence of seasonal variations in depressive symptoms which appear to be more pronounced in women than in men.

"We don't yet fully understand why this should be the case, but it was interesting that the changes were independent of social and lifestyle factors, perhaps suggesting a sex-specific biological mechanism."

Currently, around three per cent of the UK population is believed to be affected by seasonal affective disorder each year, while individuals with a history of depression are also more likely to have their symptoms recur during the winter months.

Scientists believe that drastic changes in outdoor temperatures may be behind this, highlighting that additional mental health support resources might be needed in the winter to make sure people do not feel alone as they battle their seasonal affective disorder.

This research has been published in full in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Written by Angela Newbury

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