Seasonal Affective Disorder

Making a positive difference to your mental health.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Most people notice that prolonged periods of gloomy weather can affect their mood. However, for some people, this effect is more powerful and can significantly interfere with their lives. For these people winter months are difficult and can bring about a sustained low mood and lack of energy. The clinical name for this illness is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Typically the types of problem people report are:

  • Depression or feeling low.
  • Less interest in doing things.
  • Feeling tired or having little energy.
  • Sleep disturbances, such as sleeping too much or waking in the night.
  • Loss of interest in sex.
  • Changes in appetite (either a loss of appetite or, in some cases, overeating).

These problems not only have a negative impact on people's lives, they can also seriously affect their relationships with friends and family.

One of the main problems during the winter is the reduced level of light. Research has shown that use of a light box can have a positive effect in reducing SAD symptoms.

The Met Office has conducted a pilot study in the past to investigate the impact of an alert service for patients who were diagnosed with SAD. The results of the pilot study found that the participating patients displayed a marked improvement in depressive symptoms, after just four weeks in the pilot.

Nationally, the latest research also suggests that combining light therapy with cognitive behaviour therapy has a significant benefit for people with SAD.

To find out more about the Met Office's health forecasting services and expertise please contact our Customer centre or email health@metoffice.gov.uk

Last updated: 3 September 2012