Depression and suicide rates skyrocket as fall settles in.
In many parts of the world, Fall has arrived and brought with it all the things we associate with this time of the year...frost on the pumpkins, multicolored leaves, and the encroaching holidays. However, Fall also brings with it something we don't tend to think about: an increase in depression and suicide cases.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, aptly referred to as SAD, effects between 4 and 6 percent of the American population and rears its ugly head as the temperature falls and daylight dwindles. Since the majority of people are effected by the season changes in small ways (who doesn't feel a little gloomy with all the gray skies and shorter days?) it can be overlooked or misdiagnosed.
Doctors and scientists still aren't fully sure about what causes SAD but they believe that daylight effects transmitters in the brains that regulate mood and sleep, and with less light, those regulations falter. Two chemicals that our body makes, serotonin and melatonin, seem to be effected by the levels of light and therefor play a part in SAD and the effects of the seasons on us. The creation of serotonin, a natural mood regulating chemical, slows during the fall and winter months, while the production of melatonin, a chemical responsible for wake-sleep cycles, increases. The result is that we feel more lethargic and tired and are more susceptible to mood swings, and all of these factors together bring about depression.
In potentially related news, suicide rates in the United States saw a 17% spike among middle-aged whites, the first rise in over a decade of decline. Before 1999, suicide rates in the U.S. had declined steadily for 13 years. The findings are incredibly worrisome with the current economical crisis and it is believed that this downward trend may speed up in the near future.