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EDITIONS
 Sunday, 22 December, 2002, 00:06 GMT
Half the UK 'suffer winter blues'
Winter sun
Lack of sunlight can make people depressed
Nearly half the population find the onset of winter gets them down, says a survey.

With this year's shortest day on Sunday, more than 1,000 members of the public were quizzed about how they felt about the cold, dark days.

The results show that 45% of them said they "felt like hibernating".

A third said winter weather made them feel more depressed or anxious.

This is a crucial time for people to take positive steps toward improving their mental health through balanced diet, exercise and increased self-awareness

Richard Brook
Chief executive, Mind
And it was the youngest people questioned who appeared to be suffering the most.

A quarter of young people aged 16 to 24 said they drank more during winter - although as this encompasses the Christmas and New Year party season, this is not the most surprising finding.

However, more than half of the young people said they ate more during the winter.

Mental health charity Mind commissioned the survey in order to draw attention to problems of "seasonal affective disorder" (SAD).

The symptoms of this problem are depression and fatigue, and it has been linked to a lack of exposure to daylight during the winter months.

'Hibernation'

Some severe sufferers are actually given "light-boxes", which emit light similar to sun-light to compensate.

Other advice given to people laid low by the lack of sunlight include to get outdoors as much as possible during the day to top up their light quota - and follow a regime of exercise and healthy eating.

A foreign holiday can help - but experts say that genuine SAD can get worse upon returning to the UK gloom.

Richard Brook, the Chief Executive of Mind, said: "The pressures of Christmas preparations and surviving the winter's short, cold days, often mean we neglect our mental health over this period.

"Our bodies often go into hibernation mode as the days close in meaning this is a crucial time for people to take positive steps toward improving their mental health through balanced diet, exercise and increased self-awareness."

See also:

30 Dec 01 | Health
20 Apr 99 | Health
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