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New APA Healthy Minds Monthly Poll Finds that Nearly 40% of Americans Face Declining Mood in Winter

  • November 03, 2022

Effects More Prominent in Women, Hispanics, Parents, and Those in Midwest, Northeast and Rural Areas

Washington, D.C. — With most of the country ready to “fall back” this weekend, nearly a quarter (24%) of Americans report that they generally feel depressed in the winter. Two in five (38%) say their overall mood declines in the winter. But they do look forward to certain winter traditions: 44% of Americans look forward to spending time with friends and family during the holidays and 49% say enjoying good food improves their mood.

These results are from the November 2022 Healthy Minds Monthly Poll from the American Psychiatric Association. It was conducted online by Morning Consult from Oct. 19-21, 2022, among 2,211 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. The poll gauged mental health as the winter months began as well as awareness of seasonal affective disorder.

Women (41%) were more likely than men (34%) to say their mood declined in the winter, as were those from rural areas (46%) versus suburbanites (38%) and urban dwellers (31%). Those from the Northeast (47%) and Midwest (49%) were more likely to say their mood worsened than those in the South (35%) and West (26%). Moms (44%) were more likely than dads (31%) to say their mood declined.

“Cold, dark weather can have a real impact on our mood,” said APA President Rebecca W. Brendel, M.D., J.D. “Especially in northern areas of the country, where winter lasts for several months, it’s important to keep tabs on our mood and to seek help if sadness or other symptoms become overwhelming. It’s also a great time to remember that there are winter traditions and activities that can bring us joy and lift our moods.”

Two-thirds of adults (66%) noted behavioral changes during winter. While a quarter of adults reported they felt depressed during this time, that number was higher among women (29%), Hispanic adults (30%), people in rural areas (32%), those in the Midwest (31%), and mothers (37%). Winter also impacts people in a number of other ways.

  • 21% said they become moody.
  • 20% said they lose interest in the things they liked doing.
  • 28% said they feel fatigued in the winter months.
  • 17% said they had difficulty sleeping.
  • 33% said they sleep more.
  • 19% said they eat more sweets in the winter months.

Among activities that boost Americans’ mood during the winter are:

  • Spending time with friends and families during the holidays (44%), with women (52%) more likely than men (36%), and moms (56%) more likely than dads (42%) to say so.
  • Sleeping more (34%), with parents especially citing this (43%).
  • Traveling to warmer locations (19%).
  • Making sure there were good light sources in the home (27%).
  • Enjoying good food (49%).

When asked about daylight savings time, most Americans (57%) said that the time change didn’t affect their mental health. Yet one in four (25%) said it had a negative impact and one in five (18%) said it had a positive impact. Parents (32%) were more likely to report a positive impact than non-parents (14%), with dads at 44% and moms at 22%.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Only Familiar to Half of Americans

About half of Americans (49%) said they had heard or read about seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that lasts for a season. Women (53%) were more likely to be familiar with it than men (45%), and white (53%) and Hispanic (48%) adults were more likely to be aware of it than Black adults (30%).

About half of adults (52%) gauged the symptoms of SAD as serious as depression, while 35% said they are less serious. Men were more likely to say it is less serious (40%) than women (30%).

About half of adults (49%) said they would know how to find treatment for SAD, including:

  • 50% of white adults
  • 44% of Hispanic adults
  • 41% of Black adults

“Seasonal affective disorder is more than just the winter blues, and people need to be aware that if they’re having depression symptoms specifically during these months, it’s a medical disorder for which they can get help,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “It’s important to get the word out, especially in communities that have been historically underserved by medicine, that this disorder exists and that help is available.”

*APA’s Healthy Minds Monthly tracks timely mental health issues throughout the year. APA also releases its annual Healthy Minds Poll each May in conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Month. For a copy of the results, contact [email protected].

See more results of APA Public Opinion Polls.

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 37,000 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information, please visit www.psychiatry.org.

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