Seasonal patterns of depressive symptoms more common in women than men

January 8, 2018, University of Glasgow
Seasonal patterns of depressive symptoms more common in women than men
Credit: University of Glasgow

Women, but not men, experience seasonal changes in their mood across the year, including more depressive symptoms in winter, a new study from the University of Glasgow has found. These changes appear to be independent of social and lifestyle factors, such as smoking, alcohol use and physical activity.

The research, from the University's Institute of Health and Wellbeing and published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, showed low mood, tiredness and anhedonia (the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable) peaked in the winter months in women. A relationship between shorter days and greater in women was also found, but this may have been explained by variation in outdoor temperatures.

A condition previously referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (clinically-significant depressive symptoms peaking during winter months) affects up to 3% of the general population. It is also more common for patients with a history of major depression to experience more symptoms during , with new prescriptions of antidepressants also rising.

The researchers performed a cross-sectional analysis of more than 150,000 participants of the UK Biobank cohort, and analysed data to assess evidence of by scoring 'total depressive symptoms', plus symptoms of low mood, anhedonia, tenseness and tiredness. Associations between depressive symptoms and day length and average outdoor temperatures were also assessed.

Daniel Smith, Professor of Psychiatry, said: "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 , perhaps suggesting a sex-specific biological mechanism. Clearly, this is a complex but important area which requires further study."

"Clinicians should be aware of these population-level sex differences in seasonal mood variation, to aid the recognition and treatment of depressive symptoms across the calendar year."

This work made use of data from UK Biobank.

Explore further: Teenage depression linked to father's depression

More information: Laura M. Lyall et al. Seasonality of depressive symptoms in women but not in men: a cross-sectional study in the UK Biobank cohort, Journal of Affective Disorders (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.12.106

Related Stories

Teenage depression linked to father's depression

November 15, 2017
Adolescents whose fathers have depressive symptoms are more likely to experience symptoms of depression themselves, finds a new study led by UCL researchers.

No evidence of seasonal differences in depressive symptoms

January 20, 2016
A large-scale survey of U.S. adults provides no evidence that levels of depressive symptoms vary from season to season, according to new research published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for ...

New study links hot flashes with depression

June 26, 2017
With age comes a greater risk of depression, especially in women. With 15% of the female population in the US being 65 or older, and the number expected to double in the next 50 years, there is a major focus on age-related ...

Racial differences in link between depression and early death in kidney disease patients

November 5, 2017
Treatment of depressive symptoms may help lower the risk of early death in individuals with chronic kidney disease, but racial differences may exist. The findings come from a study that will be presented at ASN Kidney Week ...

Fewer depressive symptoms associated with more frequent activity in adults at most ages

October 15, 2014
Physical activity can reduce the risk of death, stroke and some cancers, and some studies suggest activity can also lower the risk for depressive symptoms. But the evidence on activity and depression has limitations.

Specific brain areas found to be linked to depression

March 2, 2016
Damage in specific brain structures has been found to be associated with a greater risk of depressive symptoms in late life according to research from the University of Aberdeen.

Recommended for you

Regular problem solving does not protect against mental decline

December 10, 2018
The well known 'use it or lose it' claim has been widely accepted by healthcare professionals, but researchers in the Christmas issue of The BMJ find that regularly doing problem solving activities throughout your lifetime ...

Early career choices appear to influence personality, study finds

December 10, 2018
In the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, 16-year-old students in middle-track schools decide whether to stay in school to pursue an academic career or enroll in a vocational training program. A new study offers evidence ...

When scientists push people to their tipping point

December 10, 2018
You probably overestimate just how far someone can push you before you reach your tipping point, new research suggests.

Internet therapy apps reduce depression symptoms, study finds

December 7, 2018
In a sweeping new study, Indiana University psychologists have found that a series of self-guided, internet-based therapy platforms effectively reduce depression.

Gender bias sways how we perceive competence in faces

December 7, 2018
Faces that are seen as competent are also perceived as more masculine, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Targeted cognitive training benefits patients with severe schizophrenia

December 7, 2018
Schizophrenia is among the most difficult mental illnesses to treat, in part because it is characterized by a wide range of dysfunction, from hallucinations and mood disorders to cognitive impairment, especially verbal and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.