Is daylight saving time bad for our health?

Well its happened, the clocks in the UK have now gone back, with mainland Europe following suit tonight. Now, while I’m sure we all appreciated the extra hour in bed this morning, this time of year is generally met with a sense of foreboding by those of us who appreciate leaving the office in daylight and generally seeing the sun on a weekday. But alas, for many winter has now officially begun, the evenings will be darker, the days seem shorter, but now for the first time this annual event has been shown to have a negative effect on our youth’s health.

In a study recently published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity researchers have shown that the activity levels of young Europeans and Australians is directly affected by the earlier hour of sunset as a result daylight savings time. In the study, spanning over 10 years and including 23,000 participants, the activity of European and Australian youngsters (ranging in age from 5 – 15) was recorded using accelerometers and pooled on the International Child Accelerometer Database (ICAD). Upon review the researchers found a clear correlation between the activity levels of participants and hours of light in the day, the results showing a greater decrease in activity levels the for every hour of daylight lost, particularly (and not surprisingly) in the early evening hours.

With this data researchers have joined the growing number of people calling for the abolishment of daylight savings time altogether (which personally I am all for) arguing that lighter evenings would not only have a positive effects on the health of our youngsters but could alter mean population child physical activity levels. And moreover, that this abolishment of daylight savings time, while not resolving the national obesity epidemic, would certainly be a positive step in the right direction for our national health.

Source article; Goodman et al.: Daylight saving time as a potential public health intervention: an observational study of evening daylight and objectively-measured physical activity among 23,000 children from 9 countries. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2014 11:84.

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Russell Etherington

Scientific publisher with keen interest in the communication and dissemination of science

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