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Prevalence of seasonal depression in a prospective cohort study

Abstract

The prevalence of autumn/winter seasonality in depression has been documented in the longitudinal Zurich cohort study by five comprehensive diagnostic interviews at intervals over more than 20 years (N = 499). Repeated winter major depressive episodes (MDE—unipolar + bipolar) showed a prevalence of 3.44% (5× more women than men), whereas MDE with a single winter episode was much higher (9.96%). A total of 7.52% suffered from autumn/winter seasonality in major and minor depressive mood states. The clinical interviews revealed novel findings: high comorbidity of Social Anxiety Disorder and Agoraphobia within the repeated seasonal MDE group, high incidence of classic diurnal variation of mood (with evening improvement), as well as a high rate of oversensitivity to light, noise, or smell. Nearly twice as many of these individuals as in the other MDE groups manifested the syndrome of atypical depression (DSM-V), which supports the prior description of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as presenting primarily atypical symptoms (which include hypersomnia and increase in appetite and weight). This long-term database of regular structured interviews provides important confirmation of SAD as a valid diagnosis, predominantly found in women, and with atypical vegetative symptoms.

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Funding

This work was supported by Grant numbers 3200-050881.97/1 and 32-50881.97 of the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Author information

Correspondence to Jules Angst.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest with the present study.

Ethical approval

The study was approved (1978) by the Ethical Committee of the Zurich University Psychiatric Hospital and has, therefore, been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.

Informed consent

All persons gave their informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study.

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Wirz-Justice, A., Ajdacic, V., Rössler, W. et al. Prevalence of seasonal depression in a prospective cohort study. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 269, 833–839 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00406-018-0921-3

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Keywords

  • Seasonality
  • Affective disorders
  • Comorbid disorders
  • Zürich longitudinal cohort study