The Role Weather Plays in SAD: Can Cold Weather Cause Depression?


It is that time of year again when the days get shorter, clouds linger a bit longer, and the cold is piercing. Together, these changes in our daily routines can impact our moods and, ultimately, make us a bit sad. But what is this time of year that causes this to happen? Can cold weather cause depression? Does cloudy weather cause depression? If so, do seasons affect your mood?

Seasonal Affective Disorder

When someone experiences a monumental shift in their emotional and mental health during specific times or seasons, it is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is important to consider the role that weather plays in the onset of SAD symptoms and why, how, and when it happens. Primarily, SAD is highly common during the fall and winter seasons and affects a huge population every year. Moreover, this affliction can drastically impact someone's ability to function in normal life.

When someone is affected by SAD, they can have symptoms that mimic depression – overwhelming sadness, sluggishness, disconnection, neglecting daily responsibilities, ignoring healthy habits, a feeling of melancholy, a lack of interest in engaging in activities, suicidal thoughts, and more. These symptoms correlate to SAD when they begin to prevent someone from fully participating in their life, and, unfortunately, they are directly related to changes in weather.

“The cold weather is making me depressed!”

When the weather gets colder, people stay inside more. Consider times when the weather has drastically shifted or when the weather stays cold and gloomy for a significant time. You may have found yourself thinking, "the cold weather is making me depressed" or "this cloudy weather makes me depressed."

When you stay inside due to poor weather, this leads to a lack of fresh air and increased feelings of isolation and can induce symptoms of depression. These symptoms are often temporary and usually resolve when poor weather lifts or when you get increased sun exposure. Light deprivation depression is a very common affliction and can arise from not getting enough sun providing Vitamin D. 

Knowing that this lack of exposure and isolating inside more frequently when it is not warm continues to beg the question: can cold weather cause depression or not? Surely, we have all felt an emotional or mental shift when the weather changes in some way.

Winter Depression Meaning

It is difficult to establish a functional weather depression definition, as this affliction impacts people differently. Symptoms of depression vary from person to person and range from a feeling of hopelessness or worthlessness to disconnection from loved ones to impulsivity to suicidal ideation. People handle stress and emotional strain very differently, and our emotional and mental responses to long-term shifts in weather prove that.

Have you ever felt sad when it is raining? You are unable to enjoy the outdoors, it is more hazardous to drive, you get wet, and the sky is grey. For some, this impacts their ability to feel positive emotions and can lead to sadness, lack of interest, and disconnection. For others, this may cause more impulsive behaviors, such as drinking or using substances to pass the time. In more severe cases, someone may respond to these feelings through self-harm.

In summary, weather can have a highly varying but long-term impact on people, especially when weather patterns remain poor for an extended time. When considering the question "can cold weather cause depression?" it is important to understand that the emotional change we experience in response to weather is directly associated with SAD. Not only does this suggest that cold weather can induce depression, but this also suggests that mood changes with seasons

Do Seasons Affect Your Mood?

Mood changes with seasons as the weather shifts and the days become shorter or longer. During the end of fall and onset of winter, the sun sets significantly earlier, and the days are shorter. The cold forces us inside, while unstable weather patterns often interrupt our routines and the way we conduct our daily lives. As a result, people do not leave their homes as much as in summer or spring.

This leads to a lack of sun exposure. Furthermore, when people leave their homes less, they socialize with people outside of their families less, which leads to feelings of isolation. When it is dark for most waking hours, we can even experience light deprivation depression in the winter seasons. Naturally, if we are unable to leave our houses and enjoy the outdoors, our friends, and our communities, we will feel a change in our mental and emotional health. 


The role weather plays in our emotional and mental health is significant and can lead to the onset of SAD, which is a recognized affliction by medical professionals. While we cannot change the weather, we can implement strategies to improve our response and increase our defense against SAD symptoms. Ensure that a medical professional is aware of your symptoms so that you can develop a plan for how to respond to them. Identify your coping strategies, what makes your emotions heightened or resolved, as well as a social support system for when symptoms get overwhelming.

Cold weather, cloudy weather, shifting seasons, shorter days, and less light directly correlate to SAD, and it is critical to know that it is a common affliction. Even more important, you can do something about it to prepare yourself. Though SAD can significantly impact your ability to manage your daily responsibilities, there are tools and strategies to cope with the affliction and live a healthy life effectively.

Additional SAD Resources

The Ultimate Guide to Seasonal Affective Disorder

The Ultimate Guide to Seasonal Affective Disorder

The Ultimate Guide to Bright Light Therapy

The Ultimate Guide to Bright Light Therapy

21 Seasonal Affective Disorder Self-Care Tips

21 Seasonal Affective Disorder Self-Care Tips

The Ultimate Winter Self-Care Guide

The Ultimate Winter Self-Care Guide


About the Author

Brandon Landgraf is the Digital Marketing Manager for Carex Health Brands. He finds passion and fulfillment in creating content that enhances, improves, and enlivens others' quality of life. All of his written work is formulated to not only offer essential advice and tips but back it with proven studies and experts. His mission is to connect with readers and provide steps to make their lives better.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.

About Carex Health Brands

Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.