CORVALLIS, Ore. – New research by an Oregon State University assistant professor and others suggests that getting depressed in the winter may not be as common as often believed.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers found that neither time of year nor weather conditions influenced depressive symptoms.
Lead author and OSU Assistant Professor David Kerr says the results do not negate the existence seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
“It is clear from prior research that SAD exists,” Kerr said. “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.”
Kerr and his colleagues analyzed data from a sample of 556 participants in Iowa and 206 in western Oregon. Participants completed reports measuring their depressive symptoms multiple times a year. The data was then compared with local weather conditions, such as sunlight intensity.
“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 co-author Jeff Shaman, Columbia University Researcher and Former OSU Faculty Member.
Kerr says the public may have overestimated the power of the winter blues because of its awareness of SAD, the high prevalence of depression and the dislike of winter weather.
“Fortunately, there are many effective treatments for depression, whether or not it is seasonal,” Kerr said.