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Winter Birth

December 19, 2005

Simply being born in winter could have effects year round.


The darkness-depression connection. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Being born in winter might contribute to anxiety and depression in some adults. That’s the conclusion suggested by research in Siberian hamsters. Neuroscientist Randy Nelson and student Leah Pyter of Ohio State University raised the hamsters in short, winter-like levels of daylight from gestation until weaning. Tests showed signs of anxiety and depression in the animals. Then the scientists began giving them long, summer-like days, which Nelson says should have cheered them up.

RANDY NELSON (Ohio State University):
What was interesting was that animals that were born in short-day conditions retained those depressive-like symptoms even after they switched over to the long days.

So the season of their birth had a permanent influence on their mood. Nelson says this supports other evidence that humans born in winter are more prone to depression. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.