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Is SAD Real and Are We Actually Happier in Summer?

Posted on 16.07.2019
It’s summer and the sun is shining - even in London. The evenings are long and full of light, meaning the temptation to slink straight home after work lessens and the impulse to sit outside grows. We wrap up in fewer layers and can leave the emergency umbrella at home. However, the Underground also gets sweaty and stiflingly hot, we resent our offices for keeping us out of the sun and we burn surprisingly quickly when sitting outside. In addition, statistics show us that three out of 10 Brits drink more alcohol when the weather warms up. So, are we happier?
When this topic comes up, someone often throws the term “SAD” into the conversation to explain our improved or impaired moods. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD as it is better known, is “a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern”, according to the NHS. However, they also add that, “The exact cause of SAD isn't fully understood, but it's often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn and winter days.” It’s important to note the use of the word “depression” in their definition, meaning that SAD isn’t a case of happiness and, well sadness, instead it denotes something deeper. 
Despite meriting a page on the official NHS website, the experts are divided as to whether SAD actually even exists. A study in 2006 found that “no evidence that symptoms of depression were associated with any of the season-related measures. People who responded to the survey in the winter months, or at times of lower sunlight exposure, did not have noticeably higher levels of depressive symptoms than those who responded to the survey at other times.” However, articles on the continue to abound year after year, including some that now claim that “summertime sadness” can be as much of a problem as the “winter blues.”
An expectation that summer will somehow magically fix everything wrong in our lives can negatively impact those suffering with depression, especially when everything remains the same. There can also be an element of thinking everyone else is having an incredible time while you’re sitting inside feeling low and miserable. For others it's simply a case of being uncomfortable in more revealing summer clothes. But is all this just the existence of depression but in a summer or winter setting? Is it actually to do with the season or are all the ordinary pitfalls of depression exacerbated by different things depending on the time of year?
One more recent article has posited that, not only does SAD exist, but how susceptible we are directly correlates to our eye colour. “Our study used a sample of 175 students from two universities (one in south Wales, the other in Cyprus). We found that people with light or blue eyes scored significantly lower on the seasonal pattern assessment questionnaire than those with dark or brown eyes.” As to why this should be the case, the study continues, explaining that “The reason that eye colour may make some people more susceptible to depression or mood changes might be because of the amount of light an individual’s eyes can process.”
Whether or not SAD is an accurate term or not, the effect the weather can have on our mood is undeniable. It may not technically increase or decrease levels of depression, however if you feel yourself struggling in either the summer or winter, it is important to ask for help and not to expect it to pass with the changing of the weather.

If you’d like to have a chat about teaching, then get in touch with one of our experienced education consultants. Call 0208 5066740 or email  

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