Boston among nation’s bluest cities, new study on seasonal depression finds
Feeling the blues? You’re not alone, says mental health service Thriveworks, which found that seasonal depression is most prevalent during the first week of November, and in the cold-weather Northeast region.
“This is the time of year that, historically, people start searching for more information regarding the topic,” the Thriveworks study states. “Currently, 2022’s search trends are tracking to hit 16.7% higher than last year’s.”
Thriveworks said it analyzed Google trends data and weather patterns from the past several years to predict the peak and severity of this year’s winter blues. According to the data, this year is likely to have the highest search interest in the past four years.
“Knowing when to expect the onset of seasonal depression can help you create a treatment plan with or without the help of a professional,” said Emily Simonian, a licensed marriage and family therapist and head of clinical learning at Thriveworks.
Symptoms are similar to other forms of depression, and include reduced interest in daily activities, withdrawal, feeling hopeless, difficulty concentrating, loneliness and isolation, difficulty sleeping, fatigue and changes in appetite.
The study found that people were particularly blue in the Northeast, where colder temperatures accompany the season’s darker days.
Eighty percent of the 15 saddest cities were located in this region, including Boston, which ranked at No. 14. Topping the list was Holyoke, another Bay State city, based on search interest in seasonal depression over the past five years.
The company’s data showed that search interests peaked between October and November, when temperatures typically drop by more than 10 degrees, and slowed down in December.
“This can help us conclude that the drastic change in temperature, rather than the cold temperatures alone, is a major contributor to the peak in search interest,” the study states.
In order to meet the diagnostic criteria for seasonal depression, a person’s symptoms must go away at the end of the season, and be present for at least two years, according to Thriveworks.
Simonian suggested a few simple coping tips to help reduce symptoms.
People should adapt, not change their normal routines, such as moving exercise indoors or earlier in the day. Listening to music can be therapeutic as well, and can be a more pleasant sound to wake up to in the morning.
Simonian said people also need to push themselves to do things that they may not want to, but will help them, such as socializing, going outside to get fresh air, and waking up at the same time each day.
Finally, she said those with seasonal depression should seek support from a medical professional, through talk therapy or a doctor who can prescribe medication.