- Thriveworks analyzed Google Trends data and weather patterns from the last several years to predict the peak and severity of 2022’s seasonal depression, a form of depression that occurs during seasonal changes (most often, in the fall and winter).
- According to our analysis, this year we can expect seasonal depression to reach its peak in the first week of November, which is when people historically start searching for more information regarding the topic — 2022’s search trends are tracking to hit 20.1% higher than in 2019 and 30.17% higher than just last year in 2021.
- Knowing when to expect the onset of seasonal depression can help those who suffer from it create a treatment plan or begin preventative measures, both of which might include professional medical help and/or self-care.
- If you suffer from seasonal depression, it can be helpful to amend your normal day-to-day routine instead of kicking it completely (ensuring exercise is a part of it), listen to music that makes you happy, and work with a mental health professional.
It’s proven that data trends can accurately predict spikes in the flu, Covid-19, and other ailments. As such, Thriveworks analyzed Google Trends data and weather patterns from the last several years to predict the peak and severity of 2022’s seasonal depression — and to, in turn, inform when individuals should consider starting a treatment plan or preventative measures.
According to our analysis, this year we can expect seasonal depression to reach its peak in the first week of November. This is the time of year that, historically, people start searching for more information regarding the topic. Currently, 2022’s search trends are tracking to hit 20.1% higher than in 2019 and 30.17% higher than just last year in 2021.
Seasonal Depression Overview: What Is Seasonal Depression?
Before we dive into our research, let’s discuss what seasonal depression is. Seasonal depression, officially recognized as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that occurs during seasonal changes. It typically affects people in the fall and winter months when there’s less sunlight and physical activity levels are lower.
Symptoms of seasonal depression match those of other types. These include:
- Reduced interest in day-to-day life
- General discontent
- Being withdrawn
- Feeling hopeless
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loneliness and isolation
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in appetite
To meet the diagnostic criteria for seasonal depression, symptoms must resolve at the end of the seasonal period. For example, an individual might develop symptoms at the beginning of fall and then conclude at the start of spring. They must also experience this seasonal depressive pattern for at least two years.
Predicting Seasonal Depression
Now, we wanted to understand exactly when seasonal depression might reach its peak this year, to better help those who suffer from it. “Knowing when to expect the onset of seasonal depression can help [individuals] create a treatment plan with or without the help of a professional,” says Emily Simonian, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and Head of Clinical Learning at Thriveworks. “For example, if you work with a psychiatrist, or would like to start, planning for medication treatment and knowing the amount of time it takes for certain prescriptions to begin working effectively will help. Getting ahead of seasonal depression by practicing coping skills, starting projects, or planning a trip can help, too!”
In order to estimate the peak of seasonal depression in 2022, we first analyzed Google Trends data for the search term “seasonal depression” from the last 4 years (US searches only). This revealed that “seasonal depression” searches regularly spike at the beginning of November or early fall.
For example, in 2017, the spike in “seasonal depression” occurred during the week of November 5-11. And just last year, in 2021, this peak was seen during the week of November 7-13.
How “Bad” Will 2022’s Seasonal Depression Peak Be?
We then conducted a 9-week comparison of “seasonal depression” search data, analyzing the same 9-week period (August 7 – October 8) from this year (2022) and the previous 4 years.
Most notably, it appears that search interest for the term “seasonal depression” will be 30% higher than just last year in 2021. From this data, we can also conclude that 2022 is likely going to have the highest search interest for “seasonal depression” we’ve seen in at least the last 4 years.
Weather and Seasonal Depression
Our Google Trends analysis also revealed the metropolitan areas in which search interest for “seasonal depression” was the highest, over the last 5 years. We found that 80% of these top cities are located in the Northeast. This shows that more people are searching for “seasonal depression” in the NE than in any other region.
We then looked at weather data, including average monthly temperatures, for these 15 cities. We discovered that beginning in October, the average change in monthly temperature drops by more than 10 degrees for these cities with the highest search interest. This continues through November and then slows down in December.
This is in line with our research, showing that search interest peaks between October and November and then slows down in December. This can help us conclude that the drastic change in temperature, rather than the cold temperatures alone, is a major contributor to the peak in search interest.
How to Cope with Seasonal Depression: 5 Tips
While our findings can help individuals know when to start treatment or preventative measures for seasonal depression, Simonian says, “I would just caution anyone who might experience confirmation bias, meaning they’re expecting to feel depressed and begin to look for symptoms that may or may not be there, of they start noticing what’s going wrong instead of what’s going right.”
If you do indeed suffer from seasonal depression, however, here are a few of her coping tips:
1) Amend, don’t change, your normal routines.
Many of us let the healthy habits we’ve developed slip in the colder months, but Simonian advises that we adapt our normal routines instead of stopping them. “For example, if you normally play tennis outdoors, switch to an indoor court. Stopping regular activities can contribute to depressive symptoms.”
2) Listen to music that makes you happy.
There’s no better time of year to tap into the therapeutic powers of music. Simonian suggests you increase your listening time. “Increase the use of music that makes you feel happy, especially music on a timer that you can wake up to or utilize during times of the day when you feel the most affected.”
3) Rethink the way you exercise.
As mentioned earlier, our physical activity levels are lower in the fall and winter, which can contribute to the development of seasonal depression. Simonian share’s a few tips for rethinking the way you exercise and partaking in physical activity in the colder, darker months. “Change up the time of day you exercise, consider indoor exercise like walking through a shopping mall, or join a class for social connection. Bonus: Move your home exercise equipment in front of a window to soak up natural light during use.”
4) Push yourself.
Of course, these tips are only helpful when put into practice – if you’re struggling to find the motivation to actually take action, “try practicing ‘opposite action’,” as advised by Simonian. “Push yourself to do things that you recognize may be good for you even if you don’t feel like doing them: socializing, going outside to get fresh air, waking up at the same time daily.”
5) Work with a professional.
Finally, seek the proper support from medical professionals. “If you know or suspect depression might be coming on, talk to a therapist and work with a physician who can prescribe medication or recommend appropriate vitamins and supplements,” says Simonian.