Does winter depress people?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

sad girl
Winter sadness?

Winter is absolutely my favorite season. I get to drink hot steaming cups of chocolate, read a book next to the fireplace, and bundle with scarves and sweaters. It’s really hard for me to believe some people find it gloomy! There’s even some individuals who have a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), where the onset of winter makes them depressed! How can it be, when winter is so full of holiday cheer? Well, according to research from Oregon State University, some people may just be overthinking how much the frosty temperatures affect them!

“It is clear from prior research that SAD exists,” said David Kerr, the lead author. “But our research suggests that what we often think of as the winter blues does not affect people nearly as much as we may think.”

In their study the researchers rounded up 762 volunteers to report their feelings throughout the year. Then, they took data logs of the weather and compared it to the feelings of the volunteers. Even though many people thought it was the cold, damp weather making them feel gloomy, the researchers found no connection between the participants’ sadness and chilly temperatures!

“We found a very small effect during the winter months, but it was much more modest than would be expected if seasonal depression were as common as many people think it is,” said Columbia University researcher Jeff Shaman, a co-author of the study. “We were surprised. With a sample of nearly 800 people and very precise measures of the weather, we expected to see a larger effect.” Ha! I knew winter couldn’t have been the cause. But, wait, if people aren’t actually depressed, why do they think they feel sad?

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

If that’s the case, I’m sure some of my hot chocolate will cheer them right up!

Featured image courtesy of Steve Tannock on Flickr. Sad girl image courtesy of Anthony Kelly on Flickr.