Seasonal variation of depressive symptoms in unipolar major

Bryan S. Cobb, William H. Coryell, Joseph Cavanaugh, Martin Keller, David A. Solomon, Jean Endicott, James B. Potash, Jess G. Fiedorowicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Objectives Retrospective and cross-sectional studies of seasonal variation of depressive symptoms in unipolar major depression have yielded conflicting results. We examined seasonal variation of mood symptoms in a long-term prospective cohort - the Collaborative Depression Study (CDS).

Methods The sample included 298 CDS participants from five academic centers with a prospectively derived diagnosis of unipolar major depression who were followed for at least ten years of annual or semi-annual assessments. Generalized linear mixed models were utilized to investigate the presence of seasonal patterns. In a subset of 271 participants followed for at least 20 years, the stability of a winter depressive pattern was assessed across the first two decades of follow-up.

Results A small increase in proportion of time depressed was found in the months surrounding the winter solstice, although the greatest symptom burden was seen in December through April with a peak in March. The relative burden of winter depressive symptoms in the first decade demonstrated no relationship to that of the second decade. The onset of new episodes was highest October through January, peaking in January.

Conclusions There exists a small but statistically significant peak in depressive symptoms from the month of the winter solstice to the month of the spring equinox. However, the predominance of winter depressive symptoms did not appear stable over the long-term course of illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1891-1899
Number of pages9
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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