- People living in areas where there is less sunlight are at higher risk of developing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Living in areas with more sunlight can lower the prevalence rates of OCD
People living at higher latitudes are naturally exposed to less sunlight increasing their risk of developing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), reveals a new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.
"The results of this project are exciting because they provide additional evidence for a new way of thinking about OCD; specifically, they show that living in areas with more sunlight is related to lower rates of OCD," said Meredith Coles, professor of psychology at Binghamton University.
‘Individuals living in areas with less sunlight have less opportunities to adjust their circadian clock. Therefore, are at a greater risk for developing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).’
Link Between Higher latitudes and Obsessive-compulsive Disorder
Coles and her research team have read through many papers that made a note on the prevalence rates of OCD in certain places and then recorded the latitudes of each location.
Coles said that this delayed sleep-wake pattern can reduce exposure to morning light, which can potentially contribute to a misalignment between their internal biology and the external light-dark cycle.
Individuals with OCD usually complain that they are not able to fall asleep and often sleep very late to compensate for that lost sleep. Eventually, they adopt to a delayed sleep-wake pattern, which can make their symptoms worse.
Individuals living in areas with less sunlight have less opportunities to adjust their circadian clock, therefore, leading to increased OCD symptoms.
This misalignment can happen more often at higher latitudes, i.e., in areas where there is reduced sunlight exposure, which can put people at an increased risk for the development and can worsen the symptoms of OCD. These areas exhibit higher lifetime prevalence rates of the disorder when compared to areas at lower latitudes.
Need for Further Research
The results cannot be implemented, as further research is required to test various treatment methods that can address both sleep and circadian rhythm disruptions.
"First, we are looking at relations between sleep timing and OCD symptoms repeatedly over time in order to begin to think about causal relationships. Second, we are measuring circadian rhythms directly by measuring levels of melatonin and having people wear watches that track their activity and rest periods. Finally, we are conducting research to better understand how sleep timing and OCD are related," said Coles.
Also, the team of researchers hopes that further study can investigate how exposure to morning light can help develop new treatment recommendations that could benefit individuals with OCD.
- Meredith E.Coles, Carle Jordan Wirshba, et al.Obsessive compulsive disorder prevalence increases with latitude
, Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders