When one of my friends first mentioned that he literally did not want to leave his bed sometimes in winter and could have a case of seasonal depression, I was awfully confused.
Seasonal depression? In my mind, depression couldn’t be seasonal; there wasn’t a switch where one could turn “on” or “off” depression.
So, curious, I looked into it, and found that during winter, the change in hours of light can modify one’s biological clock and therefore shift hormone levels of serotonin and melatonin (regulators of mood and sleep, which are correlated with depression) (Lieber). I thought it was fascinating that our own environment could change our bodies and how we feel.
I drew upon this memory when listening to Georgia, a fellow B-SURFer, on her talk Stress and Weather: Environmental Factors Affecting Glucocorticoid (GC) Levels. Her lab studies baboons and how not only their social rank but also their environment in Africa contributes to stress. They extract hormones from baboon fecal samples in order to analyze how the environmental factors recorded correlate to glucocorticoid levels (and therefore stress). Her hypothesis was that GC levels would increase as environmental factors became more extreme, and I completely understood when she referred to the different types of food distributions: scramble and contest. In my senior year of high school, I participated in an international written and oral debate contest on the topic of global food security. Through all the research on global food security and relating topics, I understood the food access, availability, and distribution issues that are quickly rising in the world today. With such different food models dispersed around the world and the advent of climate change, stress levels could vary greatly. I’m very curious as to how exactly these increased stress levels will create side effects that weren’t originally conjectured—perhaps in reproductive stress/hormones? Our levels of health, like seasonal depression? I was very enlightened with Georgia’s work and hope to hear about results or possible new leads soon!