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Living in Areas With Less Sun May Increase OCD Risk

Summary: A new study reports people living in areas with more sun light have lower rates of OCD.

Source: Binghamton University.

Living at higher latitudes, where there is also less sunlight, could result in a higher prevalence rate of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), according to 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,” said Meredith Coles, professor of psychology at Binghamton University. “Specifically, they show that living in areas with more sunlight is related to lower rates of OCD.”

To compile their data, Coles and her research team read through many papers that addressed OCD prevalence rates in certain places and then recorded the latitudes of each location.

Individuals with OCD commonly report not being able to fall asleep until later than desired. Often times, they will then sleep in very late in order to compensate for that lost sleep, thus adopting a delayed sleep-wake pattern that may have adverse effects on their symptoms.

a dark room

Individuals with OCD commonly report not being able to fall asleep until later than desired. Often times, they will then sleep in very late in order to compensate for that lost sleep, thus adopting a delayed sleep-wake pattern that may have adverse effects on their symptoms. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

“This delayed sleep-wake pattern may reduce exposure to morning light, thereby potentially contributing to a misalignment between our internal biology and the external light-dark cycle,” said Coles. “People who live in areas with less sunlight may have less opportunities to synchronize their circadian clock, leading to increased OCD symptoms.”

This misalignment is more prevalent at higher latitudes – areas where there is reduced exposure to sunlight – which places people living in these locations at an increased risk for the development and worsening of OCD symptoms. These areas subsequently exhibit higher lifetime prevalence rates of the disorder than areas at lower latitudes.

While it is too soon to implement any specific treatment plans based on this new information, future studies are in the works to test a variety of treatment methods that address 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,” said Coles. “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.”

Additionally, the team of researchers hopes that further study exploring exposure to morning light could help develop new treatment recommendations that would benefit individuals with OCD.

About this neuroscience research article

Source: Meredith Coles – Binghamton University
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Video Source: Video credited to Binghamton University.
Original Research: Abstract for “Obsessive compulsive disorder prevalence increases with latitude” by Meredith E. Coles, Carle Jordan Wirshba, Jacob Nota, Jessica Schubert, and Breanna A.Grunthal in Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. Published June 15 2018.
doi:10.1016/j.jocrd.2018.04.001

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
Binghamton University”Living in Areas With Less Sun May Increase OCD Risk.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 10 July 2018.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/ocd-sunlight-9551/>.
Binghamton University(2018, July 10). Living in Areas With Less Sun May Increase OCD Risk. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved July 10, 2018 from http://neurosciencenews.com/ocd-sunlight-9551/
Binghamton University”Living in Areas With Less Sun May Increase OCD Risk.” http://neurosciencenews.com/ocd-sunlight-9551/ (accessed July 10, 2018).

Abstract

Obsessive compulsive disorder prevalence increases with latitude

Many individuals with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) report difficulty falling asleep until later than desired. This may reflect a misalignment between the sleep-wake cycle and the natural light dark cycle. Delayed bedtimes are related to disruptions in cognitive processes, increases in repetitive negative thinking, and OCD symptoms. Misalignment is more common in higher latitudes. AIMS: We hypothesized that the prevalence of OCD would be positively correlated with latitude. A systematic review of the literature identified peer-reviewed publications with estimates of OCD prevalence in the general population. Twenty-four estimates of the lifetime prevalence of OCD were identified and showed that the prevalence of OCD was significantly positively correlated with latitude. Other potential alternative individual, community and study specific factors were not significantly correlated with OCD prevalence. Finally, parallel analyses of a “psychiatric control” (panic disorder) failed to find a significant relationship between panic disorder and latitude. Findings from this study support a relation between latitude and OCD and suggest potential specificity of the relation to OCD vs factors related to mental health concerns broadly. These findings are consistent with recent results suggesting that the timing of sleep may be important in OCD. Future work in this area is warranted.

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