Swedes and Americans fighting 'winter blues' with light
A Swedish company is working to provide light boxes in the country to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD during the dark winter.
SAD affects 62 million Americans, according to Michael Terman, director of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at Columbia University and a leader in the field.
About 5 percent of the population experiences the most severe symptoms of SAD -- depression and hopelessness -- while another 15 percent have the so-called "winter blues" or "winter doldrums."
The vast majority never fall into full depression, according to Terman, but "plod through winters with slowness and gloominess that takes effort to hide from others."
Two decades ago, the National Institute of Mental Health identified SAD as a legitimate disorder. Since then, the treatment of choice has been light therapy.
The standard treatment for SAD is 30 minutes of 10,000-lux, diffused, white fluorescent light, used early in the morning. About half the patients are helped quickly -- and when treatment is tailored to a person's individual wake-sleep cycle, remission can climb to 80 percent, according to Terman.
This year, a utility company in the northern Swedish town of Umea installed ultraviolet lights at 30 bus stops to combat the effects of SAD.
In an email to ABC News, Umea Energi marketing chief Anna Norrgard stated that the purpose of their work is to celebrate the fact that all our electricity comes from green sources and that they wanted to do it in a way that benefits the citizens.
She added that they wanted to give the citizens of Umea a little energy boost, to be more alert.