Are you suffering from Seasonal Depression?

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Health Assured team

24 October 2023

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in the seasons, affecting over 2 million people in the UK every year.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Commonly known as the ‘winter blues’, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is categorised by the change in mood and behaviours with the change of the seasons. Most commonly, the change to the winter weather and temperature, however, SAD can also be triggered by the change to the summer months.

The change in temperature, weather and daylight can confuse body clocks and hormones, leading to a decline in mental well-being and SAD.

Seasonal affective disorder is a recognised form of depression and should have a form of action plan and support system for all employees who suffer from it.


There are many physical and psychological symptoms of SAD, such as persistent low mood, feeling lethargic, and oversleeping. SAD sufferers and people coping with general depression may share similar symptoms such as:

  • Loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • Sleeping longer than normal
  • Low energy and tiredness
  • Feeling despair, guilt, and worthlessness
  • Craving carbohydrates and gaining weight

As an employer, it is important to be able to spot these signs in employees so that appropriate support and adjustments can be made to create a healthier and happier work environment.

SAD or general depression?

SAD is a subtype of general depression. The distinguishing trait between the two is that SAD is seasonally focused.

People who suffer from general depression have random spells and ongoing issues relating to their depression all year round. SAD affects sufferers when a change of season occurs, such as the transition to shorter and colder days during autumn and winter. The shorter days and longer nights cause a lack of natural sunlight which affects mental well-being negatively.


SAD is treated with the same approach as depression through talk therapies, lifestyle changes, and considering medication.

However, because of the connection to sunlight, SAD treatments include tips about how to have more exposure to light, such as light therapies and creating a brighter home environment.

Who is at risk?

Everyone will feel the ‘winter blues’ every once and a while, but certain people are more susceptible to developing SAD.

People suffering from pre-existing mental health conditions, or a family history of mental illness will have an increased risk of developing SAD.

Living further away from the equator can also cause an increased risk of developing SAD. This is because of the lack of sunlight during certain months of the year thus confusing the body clock, and hormones, and lowering exposure to vitamin D.

How to support employees who have SAD?

Here are three ways you can support an employee who may have SAD:

  1. Utilise an EAP

Giving employees additional professional support is fundamental in assisting with mental well-being within the workplace. An Employee Assistant Programme is the best way to offer employees support when they need it. Health Assured offers an EAP that provides guidance and aid to all employees via a 24/7 counselling service, live chat, and workshops.

  1. Focused mental health training

Training in the workplace is vital. This should be the same with mental health and highlighting the ways in which to combat mental well-being issues in work. Having specific training for SAD provides awareness of the disorder and how to support and manage it. Awareness breaks down barriers of stigma and empowers colleagues to support each other from the knowledge provided by quality training.

Heath Assured offers mental health first-aid training which will train employees to become qualified mental health first-aiders.

  1. Enhance workplace layout

Lack of natural light is one of the key reasons why people suffer from SAD. This is why it is essential to think carefully about the layout of the office and how to adjust to suit people with SAD.

Consider the questions:

  • Does every desk space have natural sunlight?
  • How many windows are in the office?
  • Is the workplace well-lit?
  • Is there anything blocking natural sunlight?

Bringing natural light into the office is key for anyone struggling with SAD. Place desks as close to windows as possible and try not to let anything big and bulky cover the flow of natural light. Actively encourage staff to go outside during their breaks.

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