As the days draw ever shorter, one to three per cent of the population will suffer from the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a debilitating condition that can prevent sufferers from functioning at their best, reducing their level of concentration to the point that they can have difficulty performing at work or at home.
Doug Sawers, Managing Director of Ceridian in the UK, commented:
Real winter blues is set to strike a section of the working population. Typically, symptoms for SAD begin in late autumn and are most prominent in December, January and February and recede in the spring months. SAD can translate itself into listlessness and depressive thoughts resulting in decreased productivity, 'presenteeism', increased absenteeism and rising disability claims. HR departments should be pro-active in providing assistance. With education, an awareness of the symptoms and early treatment, those living with SAD can lead productive lives while making valuable contributions at work.Doug Sawers
SAD is thought to be related to seasonal variations in light. Decreasing hours of sunlight brought on by the changing season puts sufferers out of step with their circadian rhythms, or daily schedules. Research has also shown that neurotransmitters, chemical messengers in the brain that help regulate sleep, mood and appetite, may be disturbed in SAD sufferers.
It can occur in children and teenagers but most frequently affects individuals over the age of 20 entering their prime working years. SAD is more common in women than men, in residents of northern countries and can particularly trouble shift workers. Two consecutive winters of depressive signs lead clinicians to a diagnosis of SAD.
Symptoms of SAD include increased sleep, increased appetite, intense cravings for carbohydrates/sweets and weight gain.
Six ways HR can minimise the impact of SAD at work: