Brown Eyes Giving You the Blues?

By Caryn Gebhard

Following weeks of holiday gatherings, activities and celebrations, the month of January can leave you feeling blue, especially if you have brown eyes.

According to a study published in the Open Access Journal of Behavioral Science & Psychology, individuals with dark eye colors may be more prone to depression than their lighter eyed counterparts.

The reason, according to the study’s lead author, may be related to how much light a person’s eyes can process. Those with light-colored or blue eyes have more sensitive eyes and therefore don’t absorb as much light as those with brown or darker-pigmented eyes. As a result, light-eyed people tend to be more resilient to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a clinically diagnosed depressive disorder directly related to variations in sunlight and seasons.

Theresa Fawvor, associate vice president of Behavioral Health at Memorial Hermann Health System agrees that sunlight can help keep SAD at bay, regardless of eye color.

“When daylight saving time occurs in the winter, individuals that suffer from depression or other mental health issues are affected by the change from light to dark. The lack of sunlight can prevent them from some of the activities they would typically enjoy in the late afternoons and evenings during sunnier seasons, thus adding to their feelings of sadness.”

Although SAD is generally more prevalent in areas further from the equator, people who live in sunnier locales like Houston can still feel the impacts. While the Bayou City receives more than 200 total days of sun per year, there is a steady decline in days of sunlight each month from October to February. It’s during this time period that depressive episodes linked to SAD tend to occur more frequently.

To combat SAD, consider adjusting your routine, Fawvor said. She suggests building in time for a morning walk after sunrise to take advantage of early morning sunshine and increasing the light in your home by adding more lamps. She also recommends combining exercise and light by working out near sunny windows or adding more light sources near your workout space.

Depressive symptoms, if left untreated, can escalate and lead to intense, emotional distress. If you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 1.800.273.8255 to assist anyone in emotional distress.

Individuals can also contact Memorial Hermann’s free 24/7 Nurse Health Line. Visit www.nursehealthline.org or call 713.338.7979 to speak with a trained nurse who can assist you in choosing the right level of care.

Memorial Hermann also offers Mental Health Crisis Clinics. These clinics provide outpatient mental health services for individuals in crisis situations and to those unable to follow up with their regular outpatient mental health care provider. To learn more, visit: http://www.memorialhermann.org/mental-health/locations/ or call 713.338.6422.

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