A recent global study involving nearly 87,000 people has found that light pollution can have a negative impact on human mental health. The findings, published in the journal Nature Mental Health, suggest that excessive light at night increases the risk of developing mental disorders.
Key findings of the study:
- People exposed to increased light at night had a 30 per cent greater risk of developing depression compared to those living in normal nighttime lighting conditions.
- Spending time outdoors in natural daylight reduced the risk of depression by 20%.
- The results were similar for other mental disorders such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and a tendency to self-harm.
Technology changes our biological rhythms
During the Industrial Revolution, the introduction of artificial light led to radical changes in the natural rhythms of human life. Our brains, developed over millions of years, have adapted to bright light during the day and darkness at night. However, modern lifestyles and cultural habits often conflict with these natural rhythms.
Sean Kane, study leader and spokesperson for Monash University, points out: “Light during the day and darkness at night is what our bodies need to function optimally. However, modern living conditions and cultural sensitivities often interfere with these needs”.
Recognising the harm that excessive night-time lighting can cause is the first step to making a difference. Solutions include using blackout curtains or sleep masks, limiting the use of electronic devices before bed and spending more time outdoors during the day. While research in this area continues, one thing is clear: by listening to our bodies’ natural needs, we can improve our quality of life and mental health.
Prepared by Mary Clair