Two Longterm Studies of Seasonal Variation in Depressive Symptoms among Community Participants

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  • Background: There is evidence that seasonal variation in depressive symptoms is common in the population. However, research is limited by a reliance on longterm retrospective methods. Methods: Seasonal patterns were tested in two samples of community participants recruited in separate prospective studies in the Midwestern (n = 556 males/females) and Pacific Northwestern (n = 206 males) United States. Participants completed self-report measures of depressive symptoms 10-19 times from ages 14-36 years (n = 8,316 person observations). These data were compared with local meteorological conditions (e.g., solar radiation) recorded across the 2 weeks prior to each self-report. Results: In within-subjects analyses, participants’ depressive symptoms and the probability of clinically significant symptoms varied with the time of year, as hypothesized (highest in the weeks of early Winter; lowest in early Fall). However, effects sizes were modest and were not explained by recent sunlight or other meteorological conditions. Limitations: Samples were not nationally representative. Participants did not complete retrospective reports of seasonal depression or measures of current vegetative symptoms. Conclusions: Neither time of the year or recent seasonally linked meteorological conditions were powerful influences on depressive symptoms experienced by community populations in relevant geographic regions. Prior studies may have overestimated the prevalence and significance of seasonal variation in depressive symptoms for the general population.
  • This is an author's peer-reviewed manuscript, as accepted by the publisher. The published article is copyrighted by Elsevier and can be found at:
  • Keywords: Seasonal depression, Adolescence, Community, Longitudinal
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  • Kerr, D. C. R., Shaman, J., Washburn, I. J., Vuchinich, S., Neppl, T. K., Capaldi, D. M., & Conger, R. D. (2013). Two longterm studies of seasonal variation in depressive symptoms among community participants. Journal of Affective Disorders, 151(3), 837-842. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2013.07.019
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  • 151
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  • 3
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  • Support came from a 2010 New Investigator Award to David Kerr from Oregon Health and Science University Medical Research Foundation. Additional support came from National Institutes of Health, U.S. PHS to Dr. Capaldi, Award Number 1R01AA018669 (Understanding Alcohol Use over Time in Early Mid-Adulthood for At-Risk Men) from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and to Dr. Conger, Award Numbers MH051361 (Critical Transitions in Rural Families at Risk) from the National Institute of Mental Health and HD047573 (Economic Stress and Child Development Across 3 Generations) from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.



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