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Will Never "Falling Back" During Daylight Savings Make You Healthier?

11/3/2010
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As if we needed another reason to hate setting our clocks back this year, but now a new study by the British Medical Journal says daylight savings time may be bad for our health.

Setting our clocks back one hour in the winter changes the amount of daylight we receive at night, making it darker earlier in the evening and lighter in the morning hours. The British Medical Journal cites that losing an extra hour of daylight makes it less likely that people will engage in outdoor activities at the end of the day because it is darker sooner.

One of the researchers of the study, Mayer Hillman, says that getting rid of daylight savings time would improve public health. “The cost for this extra evening daylight is extra morning darkness, but that’s only a problem during the winter,” says Hillman. “On average over the year only one or two of our waking hours in the morning are spent in darkness whereas nearly half of the 10-11 waking hours after midday are in darkness.”  This is even more so in Northern regions of the country and across Europe where darkness falls earlier than other parts of the country.

The report states that “keeping the same time would increase the number of accessible daylight hours, boosting vitamin D levels as well as encouraging people to exercise more.  Vitamin D deficiency is known for causing rickets and increasing the chances of autoimmune diseases. The British Medical Journal also reported that daylight savings time contributes to more pollution and wasted energy. They even go as far as saying that it might contribute to obesity due to a lack of exercise in the winter months.

Politicians in Britain and Russia are currently considering changing daylight savings time; other countries may be close behind. “It must be rare to find a means of vastly improving the health and well-being of nearly everyone in the population—and at no cost,” says Hillman. “And here we have it (ending daylight savings time.).”

Britain has begun a campaign called “a lighter later” which is gaining support from major countries around the world. Hillman’s study suggested that one extra hour of daylight in the winter and two extra hours of daylight in the summer would give us 300 extra hours of daylight a year. “Research shows that people feel happier, more energetic, and have lower sickness rates in the longer, brighter days of summer, whereas moods and health decline during duller days of winter,” comments Hillman.

Dr. Robert Graham of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York also believes we should leave our clocks alone. “As a society we are always looking for accessible, low-cost, little-to-no harm interventions,” says Graham. “By not putting the clocks back and increasing the number of accessible daylight hours, we may have found the perfect one.”

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