New research shows women suffer most with the winter blues

(05th January 2015)

Women pay the heaviest price for the clocks going back in winter, with females up to 50 per cent more likely to suffer from the winter blues than men, a new study has revealed.

Women struggle the most with the reduction in daylight, citing a range of problems such as finding it harder to get up in the morning than men (44 per cent versus 30 per cent) and harder to get motivated (37 per cent versus 28 per cent). Since the clocks went back, women are seeking solace in comfort food far more than men (33 per cent versus 21 per cent). One in five men (21 per cent) claim they have not been affected by the reduction in daylight at all, compared with only 15 per cent of women.

The survey also shows how big the overall impact of the winter blues really is. A huge three quarters (72 per cent) of the 2,000 people questioned in the Anglian Home Improvements survey said the reduction in daylight over the winter has a negative impact on their mood, while 66 per cent say it leaves them feeling less motivated. More than 6 out of 10 people (62 per cent) report a negative effect on their overall sense of wellbeing, with almost the same amount (59 per cent) saying the reduction in daylight over the winter impacts on their eating habits.

The research also identified some of the things people do to help themselves feel better during the winter, with those who spent time outdoors or sitting by a window generally feeling the effects of the winter blues less starkly – something that is no surprise to behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings.

“It’s no surprise that three quarters of the British population suffer from the winter blues, as the changing seasons, the lack of natural daylight and the passing of the summer months affect us both psychologically and physiologically during the winter. The research shows that women are 50% more likely to suffer from the winter blues than men, which is backed up by scientific evidence and is highly likely to be related to women’s increased sensitivity to cyclical changes – hormonal, biological or seasonal.

“The shorter winter days and lack of daylight cause hormonal changes in our bodies, increasing the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which makes us feel lethargic and demotivated. Additionally the winter blues can make us crave sugary foods and carbohydrates, so again it’s no surprise that more of us comfort eat during the winter months and we often feel even more fed up when we gain weight as a result!

“There are a number of practical ways in which we can beat these mood changes. Regular exercise increases serotonin, a mood-enhancing hormone, and taking a Vitamin D supplement can help too. And of course, as the survey reveals, comfort behaviour such as cosying up in front of the TV, looking forward by planning or booking a summer holiday, or ‘nesting’ by making home improvements are also great mood enhancers. But more than anything, simply being outside on a bright day or sitting or exercising by the window, especially if south-facing, can be the single most effective thing you can do to make yourself feel less gloomy and more energetic and motivated.”

While cosying up in front of the TV (58%), booking a holiday (28%) and planning or making improvements to our homes (26%) will always be popular ways of whiling away the winter, it is widely accepted that increasing the amount of natural light we get provides the key to beating the winter blues.

Melanie McDonald, Head of PR & Brand Marketing at Anglian Home Improvements, says, “It’s fascinating to see the many different methods people adopt in winter to help keep their spirits up, from booking holidays to going for walks or watching the birds in the garden. According to the survey findings, only 10% of us currently sit by a window in the winter to help ourselves feel better, yet doing this – at work or at home – is a quick and easy way that most of us can instantly feel better, completely free of charge. With windows and conservatories being so much more energy efficient these days too, you can – and should – be just as comfortable sitting next to a window or in a conservatory in winter as anywhere else in the house.”

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