Psychiatrists have known about seasonal affective disorder--a mood disorder in which otherwise healthy people experience depression during the winter or heightened anxiety during the summer--since the early 1980s. Treatment for the winter blues often involves light therapy, with the idea being that short, dark days are kind of depressing.
But a new study suggests that all mental major illnesses, including anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia, ADHD, bipolar, and OCD, might get worse during the winter. Researchers analyzed Google searches for information about mental health in the U.S. and Australia from 2006 to 2010. They found that, in both countries, all mental illness queries were consistently higher in winter than in summer.
During U.S. summers, searches for eating disorders and schizophrenia declined 37 percent; ADHD queries fell by 28 percent; and searches for suicide decreased 24 percent. Searches about anxiety showed the smallest seasonal change, declining by 7 percent during summer. The stats were similar in Australia, with the exception of anxiety, which dipped 15 percent during summers.