The British Medical Journal does not give free online access, therefore I have reprinted a letter regarding the foolishness of putting our clocks back an hour in the fall, thus giving less daylight when we most need it. (The use of bold is from this blog, not the author of the letter.) I have always dreaded the approach of the “fall back” weekend. The extra hour of sleep seems little recompense for the late afternoon gloom that descends upon us that weekend.
One of my few good childhood memories of the Nixon Administration was when RMN decided to go back to Daylight Savings Time– it was the middle of winter, and the change was enacted as a energy-saving response to an energy crisis. Yes, we left for the school bus in the dark, but oh, what wonderful compensation in that hour of afternoon light!
More daylight, better health: why we shouldn’t be putting the clocks back this weekend
- Mayer Hillman, senior fellow emeritus, Policy Studies Institute, University of Westminster, London
Lack of exercise is a major public health problem in the United Kingdom, contributing to the incidence of chronic illness. Adults are recommended to engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity daily and children at least an hour. However, surveys have shown a trend towards declining fitness, on the basis of which it has been predicted that more than half the population will be clinically obese by 2050.
Health experts have proposed urgent action to remedy this situation, and the government now aims to get far more of the inactive population walking or gardening regularly or, preferably, taking up more vigorous physical activity, such as sports, aerobics, or cycling (especially as a means of travel). Although most people are aware of the benefits—a lessened risk of coronary heart disease, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and some cancers—routine physical activity features in few people’s everyday lives. Only a small proportion of adults are motivated to undertake it throughout the year, and the school curriculum allocates insufficient time for it. In addition to removing the social, economic, and psychological barriers to activity, the measure seen to be most effective is providing more public facilities and open spaces—and networks of safe walking and cycling routes to reach them—that are sufficiently local that the journeys to get to them are not so long that the actual activity is curtailed.
Research has shown that people are happier, more energetic, and less likely to be sick in the longer and brighter days of summer, whereas their mood tends to decline—and anxious and depressive states to intensify—during the shorter and duller days of winter. People have a greater sense of wellbeing in daylight and overwhelmingly prefer it to artificial light. The common reaction to the prospect of less daylight and sunlight when the clocks are put back at the end of October, signalling as it does the end of outdoor activity and the onset of a largely indoor leisure life, is a negative one.