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Seasonality of depressive symptoms in women but not in men: A cross-sectional study in the UK Biobank cohort.

Published on: 5th February 2018

Published in 2018

Pub Med ID: 29329063

Laura Lyall, Cathy Wyse, Carlos Celis-Morales, Donald Lyall, Breda Cullen, Daniel Mackay, Joey Ward, Nicholas Graham, Rona Strawbridge, Jason Gill, Amy Ferguson, Mark Bailey, Jill Pell, Annie Curtis, Daniel Smith



We examined whether seasonal variations in depressive symptoms occurred independently of demographic and lifestyle factors, and were related to change in day length and/or outdoor temperature.


In a cross-sectional analysis of >150,000 participants of the UK Biobank cohort, we used the cosinor method to assess evidence of seasonality of a total depressive symptoms score and of low mood, anhedonia, tenseness and tiredness scores in women and men. Associations of depressive symptoms with day length and mean outdoor temperature were then examined.


Seasonality of total depressive symptom scores, anhedonia and tiredness scores was observed in women but not men, with peaks in winter. In women, increased day length was associated with reduced reporting of low mood and anhedonia, but with increased reporting of tiredness, independent of demographic and lifestyle factors. Associations with day length were not independent of the average outdoor temperature preceding assessment.


This was a cross-sectional investigation – longitudinal studies of within-subject seasonal variation in mood are necessary. Outcome measures relied on self-report and measured only a subset of depressive symptoms.


This large, population-based study provides evidence of seasonal variation in depressive symptoms in women. Shorter days were associated with increased feelings of low mood and anhedonia in women. Clinicians should be aware of these population-level sex differences in seasonal mood variations in order to aid recognition and treatment of depression and subclinical depressive symptoms.

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