Posted on: 26 January 2022
Sophia Bullard, crew health programme director at UK P&I Club, advises on the causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) among crew and how to minimise its effects:
“With the dark nights of winter and the colder days upon us, many people start to feel more lethargic, less motivated and experience lower moods than usual. While many people experience a change in mood during the winter months, others may suffer from a more severe form known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (or more aptly ‘SAD’), which can have a significant impact on a person’s daily life, impeding their ability to work or to socialise.
“A crew member’s ability to perform in their role is crucial to stay safe and prevent injury to themselves and others. Seafarers can be affected by SAD and together with the daily stresses of the job, it can be easy for the crew to feel overwhelmed, both mentally and physically.”
What causes SAD?
“The conditions of the winter season, such as shorter days, colder temperatures and lack of natural sunlight, can have an impact on a person’s energy levels and overall mental and physical health, with the distinct lack of sunlight being a crucial factor.
“Natural sunlight is an important element in any healthy lifestyle, being an invaluable source of vitamin D, as well as affecting a person’s serotonin levels and internal body clock.
“The human body uses sunlight to generate vitamin D, which is crucial for absorbing calcium and maintaining healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Lack of sunlight affects a person’s internal body clock, resulting in fatigue. On the other hand, the hormone serotonin affects mood, decision making, social behaviour and other cognitive functions.”
What to look out for
“Common symptoms of SAD include:
- Greater need for sleep
- Agitation or anxiety
- A loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
- Persistent low mood
- Less energy / fatigue
- Trouble concentrating
- Increased appetite / weight gain
- Becoming less sociable
“There are many changes that can be made to mitigate the effects of SAD during winter. These include trying to get as much sunlight as possible during the day, consuming more vitamin D rich food in your diet, exercising for at least 30 minutes a day and avoiding and managing stressful situations.”
For further advice and a detailed Q&A, please visit: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Winter Blues