--Original published at Nadia's Blog
It is a common belief and misconception that as the cold weather approaches, depression worsens, most commonly known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Most people believe that the colder weather lowers an individual’s mood, slows their mind and become more prone to depression. This misconception was caused by a SAD study conducted in which the participants recruited believed that they had this diagnosis. This ultimately led to bias and skewed results. An improved study was conducted by Megan K. Traffanstedt, Sheila Mehta and Steven G. LoBello to determine if a seasonally related pattern of occurrence of major depression could be demonstrated in a population-based study.
The researchers conducted a cross-sectional U.S. survey of adults, from 18-99 years old. A total of 34,294 participants were randomly chosen from a population registry during all four seasons. The study was based on a larger population representative sample. The researchers ensured that depression measurement was consistent with DSM criteria, was population representative, the participants were unaware of the seasonal hypothesis and were aware of the effects of variables. The survey included the Patient Health Questionnaire-8 (PHQ-8), which was the current measure of depression, and was conducted in 36 different states. The data collected was interpreted using regression models to determine if depression was related to sunlight exposure. The study was sure to investigate the latitude, season and sunlight exposure in each participant, and took those factors into account.
The latitude was classified as an individual living in the northern, middle or southern latitude and this aspect was tabulated at the time of the survey. The researchers were also able to acknowledge the duration of daylight for most U.S. areas. The amount of sunlight exposure ranged from 8 hours and 43 minutes to 15 hours and 37 minutes. A few analyses of the correlation between depression and sunlight were evaluated. The first being if depression is related to season, second being if latitude or season independently interacted with depression scores.
The study resulted that seasonal variables were not related to depression scores. The same results came from the effects of latitude. Most importantly the amount of sunlight exposure did not significantly alter depression scores. There was no association with depression scores and sunlight in the total sample or in the participants who had increased depression scores. Additionally there was not a correlation of sunlight exposure the day of the interview and the depression score.
This study conducted is able to be representative of the entire U.S. population and was properly executed to ensure no self-selection bias. The results of this study doubt that major depression with seasonal variation is an actual psychiatric disorder. It is evident to note that just because an individual is depressed in winter does not mean that their depression is caused by winter itself.
I found this assignment challenging because I quickly realized that the news article contained very little information to support what they were discussing. I am definitely an individual who believed what I read in news articles online; however my views have completely changed. I am now aware that the news article that I read did not contain any of the 5 important questions and did not provide the reader with any information that could verify their results. Overall both the news article and the scholarly article had the same results which allowed me to at least agree with the outcome of the news article. I did not have a lot of difficulty summarizes the research article because my original news article was 1,496 words, which gave me a ton of room to include the necessary aspects of the research for the reader to understand the study. Interestingly the difficult part was to not include too much detail that the reader would not be able to understand what I was trying to say. In the scholarly article much more information was given but not necessarily all of the information could be used in the new summary. The summary was challenging because I needed to prioritize and organize the information in a way that would make sense to the reader. I did have trouble deciding how in depth I should go or if I was being too vague. I now understand the difficulty of journalist who does not have full control of what to include in an article if they are under a word constraint. It is not their fault that they were not able to provide the reader with all the information necessary. Overall I found this assignment incredibly helpful and it now allows me to look at things in a different light.