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What are the Effects of the Clock Change?

What are the effects of the Clock Change?

Tuesday 26 October 2021

Last week, we took a detailed look at the History of the Clock Change – how it came to be, who campaigned for it, and why it was deemed a necessary change during wartime. This week, we plan to prepare you for the effects you may experience due to the “fall back” which will be occurring on Sunday the 31st of October.

Many of us look forward to the last Sunday of October, specifically because of that extra hour in bed that we all get. It’s like a very early Christmas present, rejuvenating us momentarily before the cold rush of the winter period comes hurtling toward us. Some have even called it the happiest weekend of the year for this reason, but does the changing of the clocks in Autumn have any negative effects?

SAD and the changing of the clocks

Generally, it is understood that the initial change to our daily rhythms resulting from the clock change can disturb our finely balanced mental states and hormonal equilibrium. Of course, with a wide scale, yet relatively small change it can be difficult to provide broad and clear answers, and the trans-international data comparing the effects of the winter blues and the more severe Seasonal Affective Disorder, are difficult to analyse conclusively.

For instance, up to 6% of the UK population experiences “recurrent major depressive episodes with a seasonal pattern” (, compared to the 2% - 8% figure for Denmark, Canada and Sweden which experience a more significant shift to daylight hours.

Logically, we should see the prevalence of SAD increasing as we move further from the equator, but this rule does not always apply, and is not directly observable. Iceland bucks this trend entirely. Despite being significantly further from the equator than the UK, their rate of SAD peaks at less than 4%. Whether unseen environmental factors, genetic differences or social attitudes are affecting these changes, we are unsure - but we are certain that more research must be done!

The UK is still clock change positive

While the Autumn clock change does appear to temporarily contribute to an increase of these seasonal disorders here in the UK, the population is still in favour of the clock change, especially within Scotland. This is because without a clock change, the sun wouldn’t rise until after 10.00am. This could contribute to an increase in early morning road accidents and work-related injuries, as many industries are unwilling to shift the working day around the sunlight available.

Saving an extra hour of daylight in the early morning may also be beneficial to the education system, as both teachers and students appear to benefit from the shift in sunlight in the early morning. Of course, this could be alleviated if the government were willing to shift the hours of schooling around the sunlight available.

When the changing of the clocks was debated in the house of commons between 2010-2012, the primary concerns were about the northern counties, and the effects on our education system. Both were deemed to see great benefits from the clock change, and it is easy to see why.

Oh - what to do about it all?

Evidently, the debates around the clock change are varied and highly complex. While we don’t have an answer which provides a clear scientific basis to make a permanent change, we can offer some advice for the in-coming darker nights.

Firstly, try to maintain your regular schedule. Abrupt shifts to your circadian rhythm will exacerbate the negative effects, so try to allow your body to naturally shift over time – as much as is possible.

Secondly, if you start to experience lower moods than you’re accustomed to, be sure to tell someone you trust, and consider discussing it with your GP.

Finally, try to make lifestyle changes which allow you to enjoy the winter, rather than dread it. Cosy up with your pets or loved ones, go out for a crisp morning stroll, and watch the leaves slowly falling on a blustery day.


  1. The Atlantic.
  2. The Guardian.
  3. Patient Info.
  4. NCBI.
  5. PubMed.
  6. Healthline.
  7. RMG.


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