Why Tanning Beds Don’t Help with Seasonal Depression

Shandra Martinez

| 2 min read

These days, lots of people are feeling the effects of winter’s cloudy days. A lack of sunshine can affect our mood. Some people feel this mildly, with symptoms they might chalk up to having the “wintertime blues,” while others feel the mental impact of dark winter days more strongly in the form of Seasonal Mood Disorder, which some may refer to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Either way, people might be tempted to spend some time in a tanning bed, thinking the UV lights mimic summer sunshine and will perk up their mood. But tanning beds don’t help with seasonal depression. Let’s look at why that’s the case.
First, it’s important to understand how many people are dealing with seasonal depression and other related health issues. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 5% of adults in the United States - more than 15 million people - experience symptoms of seasonal depression. These feelings can persist more than three months at a time, and they are more commonly experienced by women than men. They are also more common in people who live in the northern half of the United States. 
These feelings can occur sporadically and last only a short time, in which case it’s a milder issue like the winter blues. Some symptoms include:
  • Feeling more down or sad than normal
  • Feeling tired or lethargic
  • Not having your typical energy level
  • Not being as interested in your hobbies
  • Can be linked to post-holiday stress, or missing lost loved ones
  • Typically lasts less than a few weeks
  • Feelings are come-and-go
For people who struggle with Seasonal Mood Disorder, they may experience more serious effects as the lack of sunlight becomes more pronounced in winter. Some of the Seasonal Mood Disorder symptoms are the same as a deep depression. These symptoms should always be discussed with a healthcare provider. They include:
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleeping too much
  • Slowed speech or lack of movement
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of worthlessness or even thoughts of self-harm
No matter the severity of the symptoms, time spent in a tanning bed won’t help you feel better, health experts at the Skin Cancer Foundation say. That’s because the UV light and dangerous radiation that accompany tanning beds are not a cure for depression or blue moods. Tanning bed use is also linked to premature skin aging and a higher risk of developing skin cancer.
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, contact your health care provider.
Photo credit: Getty Images

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