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Depression Busters to Beat the Winter Blues: Seniors are Particularly Susceptible to Depression

Oct 14, 2009

As winter sets in, so do darker days; and that means, less serotonin—the happy hormone—is produced in the brain, leaving many people with the blues. This can be particularly devastating for people 65 and older. Studies report as many as four out of every 10 seniors with physical illnesses are depressed.

A more temporary mood disorder is called seasonal affective depression, or SAD, when a person feels particularly like hibernating. Symptoms usually begin in early or late winter and are gone by the time summer arrives.

“As seasons change and days get shorter, some people may experience an imbalance in brain chemistry caused by the lack of light,” said Dheeraj Mahajan, M.D., geriatrics medical director at Weiss Memorial Hospital and clinical assistant Professor of Medicine at University of Illinois at Chicago. “People battling with SAD usually experience fatigue, isolation, sadness, mood changes and even suicidal thoughts. We recommended they seek treatment with a mental health professional.”

While a mild case of the winter blues is normal, prepare for a chilly season with limited light by trying these Healthful Hints from Weiss Memorial Hospital to battle your symptoms of depression:

  • Watch what you eat. Avoid loading up the junk food, especially during the holiday season. Sugar and white flour products have been shown to affect the biochemical symptoms in your body, accelerating depression.
  • Grab a buddy. When depression hits, many of us tend to become even more isolated, furthering our loneliness and sadness. Instead, grab a friend and take a brisk walk or hit the after holiday sales together. Too cold to leave the house? Try making an online buddy through a Web support group.
  • Sweat it out. Exercise releases the hormone endorphin in the brain, which naturally puts you in a good mood. Join a gym or buy a piece of fitness equipment to workout indoors. Winter is a great time to take up something new too. So give that tennis lesson or swim aerobics class a try.