Nation & World

How the extra hour gained (and lost) via daylight saving time affects your health

Twice every year, debates erupt regarding daylight saving time and why the U.S. should or shouldn’t get rid of it.

This time we’re falling back. At 2 a.m. local time Sunday, most Americans will roll back to 1 a.m.

Many people, researchers and experts included, think we should abandon the time shift.

PBS cites studies from Australia and the U.S. showing that daylight saving time is not actually serving one of its signature purposes: cutting energy use. The PBS story, penned by assistant economics professor at Claremont McKenna, Laura Grant, also mentions the factor of confusion for travelers; as individual states consider adopting changes to daylight saving time, places like New England are better served to coordinate with neighbors before making a switch.

“The strongest arguments, with the exception of energy costs, support not only doing away with the switches but keeping the nation on daylight saving time year-round,” Grant concludes.

As more studies and data become available, arguments mount against daylight saving time, which was federally instituted in 1966. Topics range from entertainment (in 2010, NPR observed that the start of daylight saving time saw a drop in prime-time TV ratings) to health.

Here are some of the most notable health and safety factors in play when we reset our clocks.

In November (End of daylight saving time)

▪ Increases in depressive episodes (by as much as 11 percent) and suicide rates following the shift, due to shorter periods of sunlight.

▪ Insomnia or sleepiness in the days following the shift, due to changes in the body’s circadian rhythm.

▪ Higher rates of crime, particularly robberies, which occur at roughly a 7 percent higher rate during the darker months than when daylight saving time is in effect.

▪ Increases in pedestrian fatalities in high-traffic areas, as streets become darker earlier in the evening.

In March (Start of daylight saving time)

▪ Risk of heart attack as much as 10 percent higher in the two days following the shift.

▪ Risk of stroke as much as 8 percent higher in the two days following the shift.

▪ Traffic fatalities at as much as a 17 percent higher rate the Monday after the shift, related to lost sleep.

▪ Higher rates of workplace injuries and productivity lost due to those injuries.

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