Dank, dark winter days not as depressing as believed

Washington: Getting depressed when it`s cold outside may not be as common as we have been led to believe, a new study has suggested.

In the study, researchers found that neither time of year nor weather conditions influenced depressive symptoms.

Lead author David Kerr of Oregon State University said this study does not negate the existence of clinically diagnosed seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, but instead shows that people may be overestimating the impact that seasons have on depression in the general population.

Kerr, an assistant professor in the School of Psychological Science at OSU, said the majority of studies of seasonal depression ask people to look back on their feelings over time.

He said that people are really good at remembering certain events and information but unfortunately they are not able to recall the timing of day-to-day emotions and symptoms across decades of our lives, asserting that these research methods are a problem.

So Kerr and his colleagues tried a different approach. They analyzed data from a sample of 556 community participants in Iowa and 206 people in western Oregon. Participants completed self-report measures of depressive symptoms multiple times over a period of years. These data were then compared with local weather conditions, including sunlight intensity, during the time participants filled out the reports.

In one study, some 92 percent of Americans reported seasonal changes in mood and behavior, and 27 percent reported such changes were a problem. Yet the study suggests that people may be overestimating the impact of wintery skies.

The study sample was of nearly 800 people.

Kerr believes the public may have overestimated the power of the winter blues for a few reasons. These may include awareness of SAD, the high prevalence of depression in general, and a legitimate dislike of winter weather.

Kerr said that people may not have as much fun, we can feel cooped up and we may be less active in the winter, adding that`s not the same as long-lasting sadness, hopelessness, and problems with appetite and sleep - real signs of a clinical depression.

In a study that has been published online in the Journal of Affective Disorders.