The practice of changing our clocks by an hour twice a year to accommodate Daylight Saving Time is not merely disrupting your sleep twice a year. For people with some mental illnesses it can be dangerous and even deadly.

A study of suicide data in Australia, Small shifts in diurnal rhythms are associated with an increase in suicide: The effect of daylight saving, found that for men with diagnosed bipolar disorder the small change in the clock resulted in a higher rate of suicide in both the Spring and the Fall, but especially in the Spring.

From a review of research on suicides, Seasonality of Suicidal Behavior, without identifying the relationship to Daylight Saving Time, found that the rate of suicide among those with mood disorders was highest in the months following the switch to Daylight Saving Time. This review was of studies conducted when Daylight Saving Time in the United States began on the fourth Sunday of March. It took two months, that’s 8+ weeks, for the risk to drop back down to a more normal range

Source: Seasonality of Suicidal Behavior

More recently, Dutch researchers found in the study, Daylight Savings Time Transitions and the Incidence Rate of Unipolar Depressive Episodes, that hospitalizations for unipolar after the transition from summer time to standard time were associated with an 11% increase in the incidence rate of unipolar depressive episodes that dissipated over approximately 10 weeks.

It took 10 weeks for people with mood disorders to finally accommodate to the new rhythm of day an night! That’s 2 and a half months. Add another eight weeks to that, and we’re back to the chart above.

Let’s connect a few dots now.

  1. While most of us believe changing our clocks is only disruptive for a day or two, maybe a week, for those with mood disorders (in the US about 1 in ten people have a mood disorder) the ability to bounce back can take months. And just as they are adapting to the new schedule, it switches again.
  2. The problem of opioid addiction is pandemic in the Western world and is particularly acute in the U.S. It is also well established that opioid abuse rates are much higher among those with mood disorders. The search for ways to reduce opioid addiction is running at a fevered pitch right now affecting every aspect our society from medical practices, pharmaceutical company marketing, dentistry, law enforcement practices, judicial reform, and on and on. As a society we should be doing everything we can to ease the burden opioid abuse and addiction has on our society.
  3. Our health care system, and especially Emergency Departments across the fruited plain, are already stressed to the point of breaking. reducing the impact of changing our clocks from Daylight Saving Time will help reduce some of the self-imposed seasonal strain

Ending the practice of Daylight Saving Time is more than just an inconvenience for those who enjoy the long evening hours after work in the Summer, it is a policy that can have profound negative psychological effects for as much as 10% of our population, over 35 million people.

SOURCES: Hansen BT1, Sønderskov KM, Hageman I, Dinesen PT, Østergaard SD. Daylight Savings Time Transitions and the Incidence Rate of Unipolar Depressive Episodes. Epidemiology. 2017 May;28(3):346-353.

BERK, M. , DODD, S. , HALLAM, K. , BERK, L. , GLEESON, J. and HENRY, M. (2008), Small shifts in diurnal rhythms are associated with an increase in suicide: The effect of daylight saving. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 6: 22-25.

Woo, J. M., Okusaga, O., & Postolache, T. T. (2012). Seasonality of suicidal behavior. International journal of environmental research and public health9(2), 531-47.