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Depressed Swedes get bus stop light therapy

Depressed Swedes get bus stop light therapy

Published: 27 Nov 2012 12:13 GMT+01:00
Updated: 27 Nov 2012 12:13 GMT+01:00

An energy company in Umeå, northern Sweden, has installed phototherapy lights in the city’s bus stops to combat the short days, lack of sunlight, and residents’ depression.

"We wanted to show we care about the people living here in Umeå at this dark time of the year, people get depressed if they don't see the light,” Umeå Energi CEO Göran Ernstson told The Local

The company installed so called anti-SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lights in 30 of the city’s bus stops last week.

Umeå, which lies some 500 kilometres north of Stockholm, is only light for around five hours a day at this time of year. Into December, as the temperature plummets, this figure shrinks by an hour.

The snow has not yet settled, and as a result the city is even darker than usual, something the energy company wants to fight artificially.

“Umeå residents both own us and are our customers and we believe we all need to be re-energized when it gets like this," Ernstson continued.

"Even though it snowed today, the sun had set by 2pm. People need to get their vitamin D somehow!”

The energy company boasts that the energy used to power the lamps comes from renewable sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower.

In addition, the lights filter out harmful UV rays, preventing potential eye and skin damage for those standing beneath them waiting for the bus.

However, not everyone in Umeå is beaming with the new additions to the bus stops.

Local resident Tomas Helleborg claims the lights are so dazzling that it’s almost a struggle moving past them.

“The light is quite bright indeed and directed to the street outside the bus-stops, and I don't really like them,” he told The Local.

“They’re simply too bright when you’re biking or driving past in the dark!”

Light therapy is a known treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder by compensating for lost sunlight exposure and resetting the body's internal clock.

Also known as heliotherapy and phototherapy, it can be also used to treat skin, sleep and psychiatric disorders.

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

17:33 November 27, 2012 by skatty
I have lived in north and south, there is 5 hours day light for both south and north in winters, but the interesting thing about the north cities is that street lamps have no reflection. The darkness in north is so dark that it's like living in a black hole. The street lamps are like candles far away from streets, no light reflection on the streets!

Some times I just wonder, how I could end up in Sweden!
18:55 November 27, 2012 by Acta
If you really care about us, please make sure the bus drivers don't leave the bus stop before the time. Because of winter, it is quite difficult to wait for the next bus. It is ok to come 2 or 3 minutes later but it is not ok to leave even 1 minute earlier. Why should I suffer when I come on time.
15:24 November 30, 2012 by Gjeebes
Ya, good luck with that. If you are north of Stockholm, there is little one can do about the depressing environment; and it isn't only in the winter season.
19:18 November 30, 2012 by tadchem
Phototherapy resets the biological clock by causing the epithelial cells in the retina to photochemically produce melatonin in the chromophores. What is needed is about 30 minutes of long-wave ultraviolet (UV-A), unfiltered, directly into the eye. It ned not be very bright. UV filtering glasses will muck it up.

The melatonin released by the retinal cells follows the optic nerve directly into the brain to reset the clock. Your brain and body will think it's morning.

I use this trick to treat 'jet lag'. It is safer and more reliable than melatonin pills.

Use it in the evening and your body will want to stay up late, and want to sleep in the next day. You should avoid the UV-A light after 5 PM.
00:07 December 1, 2012 by theobserver
This is great, but a better cure for depression is communication with human beings, something that Swedes hate. I say "hello" to them and they turn away. Weird people!
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