Teenagers more likely to be grumpy with winter blues if they were born in spring
Exposure to natural light in early days of life may somehow programme the nervous system
Winter blues: Seasonal affective disorder has been linked to how much sunlight a baby is exposed to in the days following birth
Teenage mood swings are usually blamed on hormonal changes, relationship problems or simple contempt for overbearing parents. But it turns out grumpy teens may actually be programmed from birth.
Researchers found teenagers born in the spring or summer are more likely to suffer the ‘winter blues’ than those born in the colder months of autumn or winter.
The reason, scientists say, may be something to do with the way exposure to natural light in the very early days of life programmes the nervous system.
Exposure to longer hours of daylight appears to make summer-born children more prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition which affects an estimated four million people in the UK every winter.
The research, by a team of psychologists at the University of Bologna in Italy, is the latest in a long line of studies to find that season of birth can have a strong influence on mental and physical health later in life.
Previous investigations have revealed winter babies are more prone to allergies and schizophrenia, while summer babies tend to be taller and stronger but may be more at risk of the digestive disorder coeliac disease.
To see if there was a link with teenage mood swings, the researchers recruited 1523 youngsters aged between ten and 17.
Each one completed a specially-formulated questionnaire designed to measure seasonal mood variations in children and adolescents.
When the forms were completed, the researchers matched the results up with volunteers’ birth dates.
The results, published in the journal Psychiatry Research, revealed scores were highest among summer-born babies, suggesting they were more sensitive to the effects of shorter, darker winter days than those born later in the year.
In a report on their findings, the researchers said the results could be used to identify teens most at risk of the winter blues, so steps could be taken to stop it blighting their lives.
‘Summer-born adolescents reported the highest scores, while winter-born participants had the lowest.
‘This could have implications for prevention, though the identification of indicators, such as birth season, which could increase the risk of developing a psychiatric disease.’