Seasonality of mood and affect in a large general population sample

Wim H. Winthorst*, Elisabeth H. Bos, Annelieke M. Roest, Peter de Jonge

*Corresponding author for this work

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Mood and behaviour are thought to be under considerable influence of the seasons, but evidence is not unequivocal. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether mood and affect are related to the seasons, and what is the role of neuroticism in this association. In a national internet-based crowdsourcing project in the Dutch general population, individuals were invited to assess themselves on several domains of mental health. ANCOVA was used to test for differences between the seasons in mean scores on the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) and Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (QIDS). Within-subject seasonal differences were tested as well, in a subgroup that completed the PANAS twice. The role of neuroticism as a potential moderator of seasonality was examined. Participants (n = 5,282) scored significantly higher on positive affect (PANAS) and lower on depressive symptoms (QIDS) in spring compared to summer, autumn and winter. They also scored significantly lower on negative affect in spring compared to autumn. Effect sizes were small or very small. Neuroticism moderated the effect of the seasons, with only participants higher on neuroticism showing seasonality. There was no within-subject seasonal effect for participants who completed the questionnaires twice (n = 503), nor was neuroticism a significant moderator of this within-subjects effect. The findings of this study in a general population sample participating in an online crowdsourcing study do not support the widespread belief that seasons influence mood to a great extent. For, as far as the seasons did influence mood, this only applied to highly neurotic participants and not to low-neurotic participants. The underlying mechanism of cognitive attribution may explain the perceived relation between seasonality and neuroticism.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0239033
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9 september
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020

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