Dark skies and incessant rain are casting a cloud of depression over Indian cities, say scientists, terming the phenomenon as SAD—Seasonal Affective Disorder.
<b1>Thirty four-year-old Mumbai yoga instructor Pallavi Acharya, for instance, finds it hard to get out of bed these days. "The grayness, gloominess and rains make me feel low during the monsoons. When you open the papers and read about diseases such as leptospirosis, dengue and malaria, it gets you down," she said.
Mental health charities in Mumbai record an 80 per cent increase in calls to helplines during the rains. Some callers are clinically depressed, but there are also large numbers of previously happy people who just feel low because of the weather.
“From September to June we get around five calls a day but during the monsoon it is 15-18,” said Johnson Thomas, director of Aasra, a mental health NGO.
Dr Rajesh Sagar, psychiatrist, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, said there should be two episodes of depression in consecutive months to classify it as SAD. “It is not commonly diagnosed in Delhi. It is more prevalent in European countries.” However, one of the world’s leading SAD experts told Hindustan Times that seasonal depression also occurs in tropical countries during the monsoon months.
“It is possible that SAD is prevalent in India. A shortage of light affects people’s moods, sleep patterns, appetite and weight, ” said Dr Timo Partonen of the Department of Health and Alcohol Research, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki. In Finland, light could fall below 2,000 lux (light measurement unit) during a winter day, and trigger a high instance of SAD. “In India I would expect 5,000 to 10,000 lux or more on a normal day, but it can fall below 2,000 lux when it is very dark and cloudy,” he said.
(Inputs from Atul Mathur in New Delhi)