Seasonal Affective Disorder: 1 in 3 people suffer from SAD

29 per cent of British adults experience symptoms of the condition during the winter months

Antonia Molloy
Friday 24 October 2014 16:56 BST
Over half of adults say their overall mood is worse in the winter season compared to the summer season
Over half of adults say their overall mood is worse in the winter season compared to the summer season (Rex)

As the clocks go back this weekend, new research has shown that one in three people in the UK suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

And according to the findings, women are 40 per cent more likely than men to experience symptoms of the condition sometimes referred to as “winter depression”.

The research, commissioned by The Weather Channel and YouGov, shows that 29 per cent of adults experience symptoms of SAD at this time of year, ranging from low energy levels, to low self-esteem and anxiety. For eight per cent of people the symptoms are acute, while the remaining 21 per cent suffer a milder form of subsyndromal SAD.

Over half (57 per cent) of adults say their overall mood is worse in the winter season compared to the summer season, highlighting the strong links between the weather and wellbeing. Meanwhile, 40 per cent of people suffer from fatigue during the winter months.

These figures are twice as high as previous estimates and the researchers hope that their findings will encourage businesses and the NHS to implement strategies to deal with the impact of the weather on public health. Most recent reports from the Health and Safety Executive state that ill health cost the economy £13.8 billion in 2010-2011.

Professor Lance Workman, a psychologist on behalf of The Weather Channel, said: “Previous studies have suggested that the rate of SAD is around three to four per cent of the population. This finding of a rate of eight per cent of British adults is quite striking and suggests this is a bigger problem than previously thought.

“Moreover, a rate of 21 per cent reporting a milder form of SAD (subsyndromal SAD) is also concerning and suggests that, rather than this being a rare problem, changes of mood in the winter months affects nearly one in three of the British population”.

Possible treatments for SAD include cognitive behavioural therapy, antidepressants, light therapy and regular exercise.

Ross Webster, managing director of The Weather Channel, added: “The weather has a huge effect on all of our lives each day, from what we wear, to what we eat and where we go.

“Businesses all over the world use the weather forecast to optimise sales but not enough people consider the impact of the winter weather on our moods. The results of the survey demonstrate just how much of an impact it has on the population.”

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