This U.S. government poster from 1918 promoted the idea that farmers would benefit from an extra morning hour of sunrise in the winter, but today many scientists and health practitioners say we need sun in the evening instead.
As people move their clocks back an hour on Sunday at 2:00A.M., scientists worry the lost hour of afternoon daylight in northern countries is leading to increasing energy use (to turn on lights in the late afternoon), and health problems (lack of Vitamin D from the sun exposure). An article by Reuters‘ reporter Kate Kelland notes that countries like Britain and Russia are considering policy changes in order to combat the problems caused by DST;
“It must be rare to find a means of vastly improving the health and well-being of nearly everyone in the population — and at no cost,” said Mayer Hillman of the Policy Studies Institute in Britain, where a bill on DST is coming up for consideration in parliament soon. “And here we have it.”
Sports groups are supporting the policy change, which would provide more daylight hours for frolicking outside after school and work. Scientists estimate that just by switching to Central European time, British citizens would see 300 more hours of daylight a year. Given that nearly half of the world’s population is lacking in Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, such an easy policy change could have profound health, and environment effects.
Is it worth it change the clocks? Across the pond from Britain, Dr. Robert Graham of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told Reuters that yes, it is worth it. Dr. Graham hopes an extra hour of daylight would encourage people to exercise more, possibly leading to lower rates of chronic illnesses.
“As a society we are always looking for accessible, low cost, little-to-no harm interventions,” he said by telephone. “By not putting the clocks back and increasing the number of accessible daylight hours, we may have found the perfect one.”
Is keeping DST through the winter a reasonable policy for improving public health? If a change were proposed, could it actually make its way through Congress given the current lack of bipartisanship in American politics? What are the downsides to switching from our current system?