The ‘winter blues’, or being a bit fed up after the conclusion of the Christmas break is a common condition in the early days of January. Yet this, in some cases, can be much more serious. The endless dark nights and rainy mornings can lead to a more disabling seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Cases of the SAD appear to be on the rise and employers are now having to give the problem much more consideration. In a recent study commissioned by employee health risk specialist Willis PMI Group, 23 percent of UK Human Resource (HR) professionals said employees had reported suffering from the condition.
However, the issue is contentious and there are those who believe that SAD is simply the Christmas come-down, a harsh return to reality after a dreamy Christmas season.
Almost one in five of those surveyed said that they believe that SAD is an unnecessary label created to explain natural, seasonal changes in mood.
“SAD is a medically recognised condition, believed to be caused by reduced sunlight levels affecting hormone production, that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern and is sometimes known as ‘winter depression’ because symptoms tend to be more severe during winter,” said Mike Blake, Director at Willis PMI Group.
Downturn in mood
“Although not all HR professionals are aware of this, it is reassuring the majority (79 percent)recognise SAD’s authenticity as it can have far reaching effects on employees’ mood and productivity,” Blake continued.
Almost three-quarters of those surveyed noticed a downturn in mood among staff during the dark winter months. Furthermore, 43 percent said they also noticed a downturn in staff productivity during winter.
Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of HR professionals, however, do not know the recommended treatment for employees suffering from SAD.
“There is clearly a lack of understanding on how to handle the issue of SAD amongst employers,” added Blake. Lifestyle measures, including getting as much natural sunlight as possible, exercising regularly and managing stress levels, as well as light and talking therapies can have a significant impact in reducing symptoms.”