3% facing Winter Depression

The winter depression experienced by around 3% of the Swedish population throughout autumn and winter affects sufferers more acutely than 'regular' depression.

These are the findings from Psychiatrist Baba Pendse from Lund university who told Svenska Dagbladet that winter depression is an illness that is commonly underestimated, and where only one in five sufferers are diagnosed properly.

Winter depression is the Nordic version of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and its sufferers are often met with “incompetence and misunderstanding” by the medical profession.

As part of his dissertation at Lund University Pendse compared SAD sufferers with patients who were suffering non-seasonal depressions. These were patients who had been hospitalised after trying to take their own lives. The researcher was surprised to find that “people who suffered from winter depression had worse symptoms than those who had tried to commit suicide”.

“These patients seem to have as many suicidal thoughts as the test group although they seldom act on their thoughts,” he told SvD.

“We don’t know why, but it may be because they know they will experience an improvement in the spring.”

SAD often arrives in the autumn and disappears again in the spring. Sleeping patterns change, and patients often report needing more sleep as well as having an increased appetite. An inability to make choices, forgetting things, and being generally tired are also part of the pattern.

Although people appear to be genetically disposed to SAD, it is mainly thought that disruptions in our body clocks cause most of the symptoms, and that therefore treatment with light therapy, offered at various hospitals around Stockholm, can offer 60 to 70% of patients some or a major improvement.

Traditional anti-depressives are also said to be helpful. It is estimated that some 3% of the population suffers from a form of SAD but Pendse believes this figure could be far greater.

“Patients are often not met with inadequate knowledge in primary care and so don’t get the help they need,” he said.

“Only one in five ends up getting the right diagnosis, and maybe that is because this is a new area of research and people are not yet aware of all the issues.”

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet

Lysanne Sizoo

Lysanne Sizoo is a certified Counsellor, specialising in bereavement, fertility and cultural assimilation issues. She also runs a support and discussion group for English speaking women. You can contact her on [email protected], or 08 717 3769. More information on