Health & Safety Department

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Information on seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern.

SAD is sometimes known as "winter depression" because the symptoms are more apparent and tend to be more severe during the winter.

The symptoms often begin in the autumn as the days start getting shorter. They're typically most severe during December, January and February.

SAD often improves and disappears in the spring and summer, although it may return each autumn and winter in a repetitive pattern.

As SAD is a medical condition, as opposed to a workplace condition, staff who feel they are affected by it, should be encouraged to visit their GP for further advice and to discuss their own treatment plan, including the potential  for use of SAD lamps.

According to the NHS SAD webpages, SAD lamps should only be used up to one hour each morning, not constantly during the day and only after diagnosis and treatment has been discussed with the GP (

The NHS page also has some other treatments that may be suitable for staff to follow, and staff should also be encouraged to utilise break times to leave the office whenever possible to get to some natural light (particularly if there is none in their offices).

There is limited scientific research on the use of and efficacy of SAD lamps - the Health and Safety Department cannot endorse their use or give advice on the selection of specific lamps. We also do not recommend that Schools/Departments purchase these for staff members for use during their working day. We would direct staff to the NHS recommendations (see the link above).

If staff members are purchasing their own light for use at home, they may want to consider checking  the light is actually suitable for SAD treatment. The NHS website links to a charity website on SAD who have recommended suppliers for SAD lights which may also be helpful,