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Turning Clocks Back Not Good for Your Health


It’s time once again for turning clocks back, and some say they relish the extra time to sleep. But an expert at Policy Studies Institute, as well as Saga research results, say that turning clocks back is not good for your health.

Turning clocks back impacts physical and mental health

According to Mayer Hillman, senior fellow emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute, putting clocks forward in the spring is a simple way to improve health because it increases the number of daylight hours and thus encourages people to be outside and participate in outdoor activities. Turning clocks back, however, has the opposite effect.

Given the growing problem of overweight and obesity among both children and adults, as well as weight-associated health challenges such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers, efforts to encourage physical activity are critically important.

Mayer notes in a “Personal View” section of the recent British Medical Journal that putting the clock ahead in the spring but not turning it back in the fall “would considerably increase opportunities for outdoor leisure activities—about 300 additional hours of daylight for adults each year and 200 more for children.”

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Research indicates that individuals tend to be happier and have more energy when there is more daylight and to be more sad and lethargic when there is less daylight. In fact, a type of depression known as SAD—Seasonal Affective Disorder—is associated with a decline in sunlight during the winter months.

In a recent article in the UK Telegraph, it is also reported that Saga’s monthly poll of more than 13,000 people older than 50, two-thirds are in favor of not turning back clocks in the fall to avoid the isolation they feel during the longer days without sunlight.

According to Ros Altmann, Saga’s director-general, “Taking away the extra hour of daylight robs many of their independence. By staying indoors to avoid driving they are being isolated from friends and family.” Saga’s research has shown that two-thirds of people older than 50 are less likely to go out on dark evenings, 40 percent said they were more depressed by dark evenings, nearly 25 percent were “grumpier,” and they exercised less.

For many people, the approach of winter is also the time for turning clocks back. Some argue that it may be time to forego this tradition because it is not beneficial for our health. Officials will have an extra hour or so to sleep on that question.

Hillman M. British Medical Journal 2010; 341:c5964
UK Telegraph