Seasonal Affective Disorder (or “SAD”) is a type of depression that affects people more in the winter months. So much so that it is also sometimes referred to as “winter depression.”
It is thought it is related to a lack of light in the winter months though much research remains on going.
But how prevalent is SAD? How many people are affected in the UK? We’ve polled the public, analysed Google searches and assessed NHS prescription data to pull together our 2021 Seasonal Affective Disorder statistics round up for the UK.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Statistics in a Nutshell
- Over a third of those aged 16 either have SAD, suspect they have it or suffer from low moods in Autumn and winter
- More than 1 in 20 people in the UK have been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Men are twice as likely to have been diagnosed with SAD (over 9% say they have) as women (4.5%)
- But women are likelier to say they suffer more with low moods in Autumn and Winter (18.28%) than men (12.87%)
- People in London are significantly likelier than those anywhere else in the UK to have been diagnosed with SAD (over 11% of people in London).
How many people in the UK suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder?
We polled 2,000 adults in the UK in September 2021. We asked them:
|Which of the following Statements most applies to you?||% Of People Who Gave this Response|
|My moods are not affected by the autumn and winter months||25.57%|
|I suffer with low moods more in the autumn and winter but I don’t know why||15.63%|
|I suspect I may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD)||12.84%|
|I have previously been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder (SAD)||6.79%|
|None of the above||39.16%|
- 6.79% of people have been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder at some stage
- A further 12.85% suspect they may have SAD
- A further 15.63% admit to suffering from low moods more in the Autumn and Winter without knowing why
In all then, just over 35% of the UK population finds their moods affected to some degree in the darker Autumn and Winter Months.
How SAD Affects Men and Women
|I have previously been diagnosed with SAD||9.19%||4.50%|
|I suspect that I may have SAD||11.64%||13.98%|
|I suffer with low moods more in the Autumn and Winter but I don’t know why||12.87%||18.28%|
We also found that men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with Seasonal Affective disorder as women are. According to our survey figures, over 9% of men have previously been diagnosed compared with just 4.5% of women.
That said, women are likelier to say they suspect they have SAD or suffer more with low moods in the Autumn and Winter months.
Almost 1 in 5 women suffer more with low moods in these months.
Age and Seasonal Affective Disorder
There are clear differences between age groups too according to our figures. The statistics from our 2021 survey show that younger people are typically much likelier to have been diagnosed with SAD.
16 – 24
|25 – 34||35 – 44||45 – 54||55 and over|
|I have previously been diagnosed with SAD||11.32%||12.35%||5.36%||8.33%||3.15%|
|I suspect that I may have SAD||16.51%||13.86%||13.25%||14.66%||10.47%|
|I suffer with low moods more in the Autumn and Winter but I don’t know why||19.81%||15.96%||15.46%||16.09%||14.25%|
Those aged 16 to 24 and 25 to 35 are over three times as likely to have been diagnosed with SAD as those aged 55 and over.
In fact, just 3.15% of people aged 55 and over have ever been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, though 1 in 10 suspects they may have it and 1 in 7 admit to suffering low moods more in the Autumn and winter months.
Our September 2021 survey also found that the youngest adults in the UK are the likeliest to be negatively impacted in terms of moods over the Autumn and winter months.
More than 1 in 10 of those aged 16 – 24 have been diagnosed with Seasonal affective disorder, while a further 16% of them suspect they have it and almost 1 in 5 admit to suffering low moods more in the Autumn and Winter.
It’s not too dissimilar a story in those aged 25 to 34, where more than 12% have received a diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder and a further 13% suspect they have it.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Diagnosis Statistics by Region
Londoners are by far and away the likeliest in the UK to have been diagnosed with SAD.
|Region||I have previously been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder (SAD)||I suspect I may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD)||I suffer with low moods more in the autumn and winter but I don’t know why|
|East of England||7.81%||13.02%||21.35%|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||7.06%||12.94%||20.59%|
Despite the shortest days in the UK over the Autumn and Winter months, residents of Scotland are amongst the least likely in the UK to be diagnosed with SAD (only those in the South West have lower diagnosis rates).
So what can we do about Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Based on NICE guidance, the NHS recommends that Seasonal Affective Disorder is treated in the same way as depression.
This may includes measures such as CBT, talking therapies and potentially medication.
Some people who suffer with Seasonal Affective disorder say they benefit from the use of light alarm clocks and while evidence is limited, some may also benefit from light therapy daily.
The NHS guidance further recommends trying to get as much sunlight as possible throughout these Autumn and Winter months, exercise and healthy eating.
If you’re struggling, whatever the time of year, please do and see your GP.
You can also use Hub of Hope to find all of your local mental health services and resources.