Daylight Saving Time: A Greek expert explains its effects on mental and physical health

daylight saving time

The biannual time change was established in the 1970s for the spring transition, the so-called "daylight saving time", and is directly related to the endogenous circadian rhythm of our internal biological clock. It, therefore, has a direct impact on the following:

  • traffic and work accidents, which record an increase in the first days after "summer" time begins,
  • An increase in cardiovascular diseases is observed during the first period after "summer" time begins,
  • drug/drug overdose incidents,
  • in recorded suicide rates
  • in human behaviour, such as athletic performance, generosity and procrastination.

For these reasons, the number of people supporting suspending time change measures is increasing.

Governments, however, must be careful about which permanent time they adopt because if they choose the "wrong time," we will likely be led into chronic circadian misalignment.

Many countries follow the "wrong" time, even during the period of "regular" (non-daylight saving) time. So circadian dysregulation can intensify during the transition to daylight saving time, which began to be implemented to optimise the use of natural light during working hours and to save energy.

However, as the net economic benefit was not entirely achieved, the debate on the "optimal solution" to the question of time, from the point of view of the social and health consequences of the six-month change, has resurfaced in recent years.

A scientific study, which covered the period 1970-2018, notes a 3% increase in daily mortality rates recorded in Vienna during the first week after the annual transition to "summer" time, mainly relating to cardiovascular attacks, without observing a similar picture in the week after the corresponding autumn transition.

The reduction in sunlight during the early morning hours has an adverse effect on traffic accidents or even the risk of cancer.

At the same time, even a small decrease in daily sleep duration, such as that caused by the change to daylight saving time, which is estimated to be approximately 19 minutes, can have serious consequences, including:

  • worsening obesity
  • diabetes mellitus
  • cardiovascular events
  • increase in the risk of breast cancer

Dr. Christos X. Liapis MD, MSc, PhD, Psychiatrist – PhD, University of Athens, Chairman of the Board of Directors of KETHEA, Member of the Committee of Public Health Experts, Member of the National Planning and Coordination Committee for Combating Drugs and Academic Scholar of the University of Western Attica. Translated by Paul Antonopoulos.

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