Is SAD Over-Diagnosed?… Maybe. OSU Research Examines Seasonal Affective Disorder

SAD_1As it turns out, you might not be depressed… you may just really despise Santa Claus. A recent study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, led by OSU School of Psychological Science assistant professor Dr. David Kerr, has shown that while seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a very real condition, our previous notions of just how common it is may have been overblown.

SAD, also known by terms such as the winter blues and winter depression, is a seasonal condition that affects an estimated 6.1% of the US population, varying by locale. Higher rates are seen in areas such as the Pacific Northwest as compared to sunnier places like Florida, and it is generally blamed on the prevalence of dreary weather. Oregon has traditionally been the home for much of the research on the topic.

In Kerr’s study, a research approach was taken that hoped to defeat the inherent problems in previous research; the fallibility of subjects’ memories of events didn’t allow for a specific enough analysis. Kerr, along with his colleagues, collected a sample of data from 556 participants in Iowa and 206 in western Oregon. Those involved were asked to self-report their depressive symptoms many times over a period of years, after which the reported information was laid out against local weather patterns occurring at the time. The end result? True SAD seems to be considerably less common than previously thought.

In much more eloquent terms, Kerr suggests, that at least in part, due to the widespread propagation of the ‘winter blues’ concept, people seem to be often confusing a distaste for being less active, cold, and stuck inside with long-lasting depression—something that is very real, and crippling not only to the person suffering from it, but to everyone around them.

Thanks to this study, sufferers from seasonal depression may eventually be more easily diagnosed. The isolation of actual SAD patients could also lead towards useful new studies, possibly resulting in more effective therapies.

If you or a loved one are experiencing depression, please call the Benton County Mental Health Crisis line, at 541-766-6844. Don’t wait, they can help.

By Johnny Beaver