| Thu, Jan 02, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

Seasonal Affective Disorder in Older Adults

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

symptoms of seasonal affective disorderDo you have a friend or loved one who often seems down or unhappy during the winter months? This may be caused by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Read further for symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is brought on by seasonal changes. The exact causes are unknown, but SAD is more common in climates with long winters and short daylight hours. Symptoms may include:

  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Low energy levels

Older adults with limited mobility, low social interaction or who are unable to get outdoors regularly may be prone to SAD. In addition, some medications may worsen SAD symptoms.

The good news is that there are steps you can take to help lessen the effects of SAD.


Routine physical exercise can help boost energy and combat the weight gain that is common with SAD. Low-impact activities such as yoga or water aerobics may be good choices. Consider an exercise class that helps create a weekly routine and promotes social interaction with others.

Diet and Nutrition

Seasonal Affective Disorder can cause sufferers to eat more when they are depressed than they normally would. In addition, SAD sufferers are often Vitamin D deficient. Eating healthy foods high in Vitamin D may help ward off feelings of depression and limit weight gain. Examples include milk, yogurt and orange juice.


The holidays are a busy time, but depression and feelings of isolation can set in after the rush of the season is over. Find opportunities to be active and social during the winter months. Consider joining a club or finding other group activities to help fight the winter doldrums.

Light Therapy

Seasonal Affective Disorder may be caused in part by a lack of sunlight. It’s important to try to get outside for a while each day. Also, keep curtains open during the day to make indoor spaces as light and bright as possible. For those who are unable to go outside regularly, light therapy may be an option. Sitting in front of light box that mimics natural sunlight, but without the damaging rays, can help make up for limited time outdoors.

The symptoms of SAD—and how to manage them—may vary from individual to individual. If these simple tips don’t help, talk to your doctor about treatment options.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


American Psychiatric Association: Get information about how to recognize and manage SAD symptoms.

National Institutes of Health: Learn more about SAD and other forms of depression.

Medicare.gov: The official U.S. government website for Medicare.

Y0066_131216_111354 Accepted