Seasonal Affective Disorder in seniors

Woman in wheelchair experiencing seasonal affective disorder

Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is a form of depression that typically occurs during the fall and winter months when there is less natural sunlight. While SAD can impact individuals of all ages, seniors and women can be more prone to feel its impact.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depressive condition that follows a seasonal pattern. The most common time SAD occurs is during the fall and winter months.

Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Decreased energy
  • Irritability
  • Appetite changes
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Trouble focusing
  • A consistent feeling of sadness

Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder

There are a number of factors that play a role in the development of seasonal affective disorder, although no case is the same. The key component is lack of exposure to natural sunlight during the fall and winter months. Limited sunlight can impact the production of melatonin and serotonin, the neurotransmitters that play a vital role in regulating a person’s mood and sleep.

How SAD affects older adults

A number of factors play a role in seniors being more susceptible to seasonal affective disorder.

This includes:

  • Changes in health
  • Limited mobility
  • Social isolation

Helpful strategies

Light therapy

Sitting in front of a light therapy box for 20 minutes or more per day can help regulate circadian rhythms and improve mood. Light therapy boxes mimic natural sunlight.

Outdoor activities

Being outdoors during the winter months can be difficult and presents unique challenges for those with limited mobility, but bundling up to get some fresh air during daylight hours can be beneficial.

Social interaction

Taking part in social activities can combat loneliness. Get involved in a church or community group or become a volunteer.


Regularly getting physical activity has positive effects on mood, helping improve sleep patterns and overall well-being.

Healthy eating

Focusing on a balanced diet that’s rich in nutrients can have a positive impact on mood and energy levels. Try nutrient-dense foods, such as salmon, berries and eggs.

Relaxation techniques

Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises can help manage stress and promote emotional well-being.

Professional support

Seeking professional help is important if you experience persistent symptoms of depression. Mental health professionals can provide counseling, therapy or medications.

Seasonal affective disorder can have a negative impact on mental health and well-being. Recognizing the symptoms and implementing coping strategies can help you manage and alleviate the effects.

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