Should clinicians and the general population be concerned about seasonal affective disorder in Australia?

Adriana G Nevarez Flores, Emmanuelle CS Bostock and Amanda L Neil
Med J Aust 2022; 216 (10): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.51518
Published online: 6 June 2022

Seasonal affective disorder, a well documented syndrome in northern latitudes, has limited credence in Australia

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as “winter depression”, refers to the recurrence of major depressive episodes (for a minimum of 2 consecutive years) during a particular season, typically winter.1 While the construct is widely acknowledged,1,2,3 the condition is not recognised as a stand‐alone mental disorder by current classification systems. Rather, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM‐5) includes “seasonal pattern” as a specifier for recurrent major depressive disorder,4 and the International Classification of Diseases, 11th revision (ICD‐11) has included “seasonal depressive disorder” under the category of “recurrent depressive disorder”.5 As such, the validity of the construct as an individual mental disorder remains debatable,6,7 with some suggesting the syndrome is a “temporary expression of a mood disorder rather than a specific disorder”.8 However, the condition’s potential as a stand‐alone disorder remains extant given both its continuous identification2,3,9,10 and the ongoing inclusion of seasonal pattern specifiers in diagnostic classification systems.

  • 1 Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS
  • 2 University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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