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LeadingEdition: E-Newsletter for Purdue University Supervisors

Seasonal Affective Disorder: How it affects productivity

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that follows the seasons. The most common type of SAD is called winter depression. It usually begins in late fall or early winter and goes away by summer. SAD is more common in northern geographic regions, where less sunlight and more darkness are common this time of year.

SAD is a real physical illness with its own signs, symptoms, and diagnosis. Medical and workplace experts agree that it should be taken seriously. With the advent of winter weather, it is easy to assume that employees who are affected by this disorder may be slacking off.

Some of the common symptoms of winter depression include:

  • Decreased work activity
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • A tendency to oversleep
  • A drop in energy level
  • Weight gain
  • Cravings for sweet or starchy foods
  • Fatigue

Studies by the National Institutes of Health show depression costs the nation about $44 billion every year in lost work days, decreased productivity, and other illnesses. Consequently, it is important for employers and supervisors to recognize the signs and symptoms of SAD so they can offer assistance to their employees. Robert Half International (RHI) recommends that employers position desks near windows or install sufficient ambient and task lighting. Office environment, including lighting, affects worker creativity, said 93 percent of executives in a recent RHI survey. Other treatment methods are cognitive therapy, which focuses on learning to think positive thoughts and learn better coping skills, medication therapy, and physical activity.

If you recognize any of the above symptoms in an employee or yourself, please contact our HRS WorkLife Programs Employee Assistance Program at 49-47707.

- Jolene Robertson
Employee Assistance Program




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LeadingEdition is an electronic newsletter for Purdue University supervisors.  It is produced and distributed by Purdue University Human Resources four times annually.  If you have questions, comments or suggestions relating to the newsletter, please call 49-41679 or email us.  Thank you.