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A rainy London morning. SAD is on the rise in the UK and causing absences at work.

Nearly a quarter of UK employers have encountered Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the workplace, new research has revealed.

In a study commissioned by employee health risk specialist Willis PMI Group, 23 percent of UK HR professionals said employees had reported suffering from the condition. However, almost one in five (18 percent) 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.

“Although not all HR professionals are aware of this, it is reassuring the majority (79 per cent) recognise SAD’s authenticity as it can have far reaching effects on employees’ mood and productivity.”

Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of the HR professionals 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.”