What is it that makes you a “born pessimist” or “incurable optimist?” Why do some of us feel low more often than others, while some breeze along life with a smile?
Of course, the genes we inherit from our parents play a big part. But it could also have something to do with the time of the year when were you born, according to a recent Hungarian study.
The study, presented at the European College of ECNP Congress in Berlin, reveals several interesting facts about how your season of birth affects your moods and behavior.
Lead researcher Zoltan Rihmer, Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Research, Department of Clinical and Theoretical Mental Health, Semmelweis University, Faculty of Medicine, Budapest, Hungary summed up the study, saying “The season in which you are born has an influence on certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, which is detectable even in adult life. This led us to believe that birth season may have a longer-lasting effect.”
Rihmer’s team studied more than 400 subjects and matched their birth season to personality types in later life. They observed that a person’s chance of developing certain mood disorders were related to when they were born. Some of these trends were particularly significant:
- Those born in the summer were seen to swing between happy and sad moods more rapidly and frequently than those born in winter. Scientists call this a “cyclothymic temperament.”
- People born in spring and summer exhibited a tendency to be excessively positive, while winter borns showed less of this “Hyperthymic temperament.”
- Those born in the winter were significantly less prone to irritable temperament than those born at other times of the year.
- Those born in the autumn months had a much lower tendency to be depressive than people born in the cold months of winter.
- No significant results emerged for the Anxious temperament.
So what about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the mood disorder which commonly hits during autumn and winter from lack of sunlight? This research indicates that those born in the cooler months are affected more deeply by SAD.
Commenting on the study, Professor Eduard Vieta of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology said, “Although both genetic and environmental factors are involved in one’s temperament, now we know that the season at birth plays a role too. And the finding of ‘high mood’ tendency (hyperthymic temperament) for those born in summer is quite intriguing.”
Rihmer himself states that the results are in line with clinical observations concerning the seasonal variation of onset and hospitalization due to effective episodes. Although the small size of the sample makes this a limited study, further research should yield interesting clues on what makes us the way we are.