Turning Back the Clocks: Health Implications in Agriculture as British Summer Time Ends
Robert GazelyOct, 25 2022 2 min read
On Sunday 30th October, the clocks go back and we revert to Greenwich Mean Time – winter’s coming!
With the progression of the season comes diminishing hours of daylight, and darker mornings and evenings.
Farming – despite the great privilege and pleasure of working in the countryside’s natural environment – can be lonely at the best of times, but increased hours of darkness herald both physical and mental hazards. While the physical challenges are well recognised, it is important to bear in mind the impact that working long hours and in dark conditions can have on farmers’ mental health.
Although harvest is a distant memory, many farm owners and employees will still be busy cultivating, drilling, rolling, spraying, and of course working with livestock which continues all year round, come rain or shine, daylight or darkness. It is therefore important to be aware of the potential onset of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes in seasonal patterns, but with symptoms that are more apparent and severe during the winter. Characteristics can include a persistent low mood, loss of appetite, pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities, difficulty sleeping, irritability, feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness, as well as having difficulty concentrating.
Another important health implication of the dark UK winter is our body’s inability to obtain enough vitamin D – the ‘sunshine vitamin’. While the link between vitamin D and physical health is well documented, the impact on mental health is still undergoing much research. However, some studies are suggesting that low levels of vitamin D could be associated with greater risk of SAD.
As vitamin D is very difficult to absorb through diet, the NHS recommends adults consider supplementing their diets with a vitamin containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.
Farming can be a relentless and high pressure occupation, exacerbated by the environment in which the job occurs, including longer hours of darkness accompanied by colder and wetter weather in the winter season. There are many and various sources of help and support available to farmers who are concerned about their, or that of their colleagues and employees, mental health, and we signpost some of them here: