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Rainy Day Blues?

There could be some connections between depression and the weather

SUNDAY, Nov. 16, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Popular folklore says rain can bring on depression. Can it?

Probably not.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), depression can be caused by genetic factors, such as a family history of the disease, though not everyone who suffers from depression has a relative who has had depression. Other factors in depression include biochemical, environmental, psychological and social causes. The NIH defines environmental factors as a difficult relationship, a significant loss, a major illness or a major change in any life pattern.

A lack of sunlight is implicated, however, in seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and depression is one of the symptoms of this disorder. Other symptoms include changes in eating and sleeping habits, symptoms that occur only in the winter, and a craving for sugary or starchy foods, according to the National Mental Health Association.

As many as one in four Americans suffer from a mild form of SAD during the winter months. No one knows exactly what causes SAD, but researchers do know that when the days are shorter and there is less natural light, production of the sleep-related hormone melatonin goes up.

Because this hormone has been linked to depression in some studies, maybe all those people who think the rain can bring on the blues aren't all wet after all.

More information

If you think you're suffering from more than just the rainy day blues, take this depression screening test from the National Mental Health Association.

SOURCES: National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health; National Mental Health Association
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