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Mental health problems connected to seasonality

Published on 12/04/2013

An interesting study suggests that seasonality may have an impact on the prevalence of mental health disorders, with conditions ranging from anorexia to OCD peaking in the winter months.

Some mental health conditions could be linked to sunlight

Researchers from San Diego State University used the online Google Trends tool to discover when people are searching for particular mental health issues.

In order to establish whether sunshine had an effect on search volume, the team looked at searches that were carried out on both sides of the equator, in the US and Australia.

They found that between 2006 and 2010 in both countries there was a clear peak in the winter for Google searches for various mental health disorders.

After accounting for timely news and events, researchers found that:

  • Search results for eating disorders fell in the summer by 37 per cent in the US and 42 per cent in Australia
  • Schizophrenia searches fell in the summer by 37 per cent in the US and 36 per cent in Australia
  • Suicide searches fell by 24 per cent in the US and 29 per cent in Australia
  • ADHD searches fell by 28 per cent in the US and 31 per cent in Australia
  • OCD searches dropped by 18 per cent and 15 per cent respectively
  • Searches for anxiety dropped seven and 15 per cent

These results suggest that seasons have a greater role to play in causation than perhaps originally thought. San Diego professor and co-author John W Ayers said:

"We're able to see, what no other data elicited, that there is potential for seasonality in a host of mental health problems"

"Here is a way that we can actually look inside the heads of people searching online, and we can use that to infer how there's population fluctuation in illness across the season."

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression thought to be linked to lack of sunlight in the winter months. Although the exact cause of SAD is not known, sunlight can affect some of the brain's chemicals and hormones.

If you want to be covered for private inpatient and outpatient treatment for mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, look for a medical insurance policy with psychiatric cover.

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2013

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