Schizophrenia and sunlight by Marc Sorenson, EdD
Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, acts, emotes, perceives reality, and relates to others. It is not as common as other major mental illnesses, yet it can be the most long lasting and incapacitating.
People with schizophrenia often have problems performing well in society, at work, at school, and in relationships. They might feel frightened and withdrawn, and may appear to lose touch with reality.
What are the indications that sun exposure may have an influence and perhaps a preventive effect on this disease?
First, there is a significant association between the month of birth and schizophrenia in men. In men born during seasons of little sun, the rate of schizophrenia and its problems is higher. This relationship exists in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Schizophrenia is also more common in dark-skinned migrants to cold climates. In addition, increased rates of schizophrenia exist in those born in urban (less sun) compared to rural settings (more sun). These facts all point to an influence of sun exposure against this disease, and especially in pregnant mothers. Increased vitamin D blood levels of both mother and child result from greater sun exposure. Furthermore, all of the direct and impressive effects of sun exposure would also enhance the health of both.
Using light to combat the disease.
The use of bright light therapy for pregnant mothers might be effective during the second trimester of pregnancy, if it occurs around the winter solstice. The bright light might partially compensate for the lack of some sun exposure at that time of year. The hypothesis is that bright light protects against circadian pacemaker problems in the child. Several mechanisms, including the control of melatonin secretions in the mother might come into play. Other potential preventive mechanisms of sun exposure are brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine. These all stimulated by sun exposure, and all have salubrious effects on the brain and nervous system.
An interesting study from China regarding sunshine and schizophrenia.
A recent research paper from China showed that low levels of sun exposure could predict increased risk of hospital admissions for schizophrenia. The researchers concluded the following: “Policymakers and doctors should promote further understanding of the health benefits of sunlight and take effective measures to prevent schizophrenia.”
From the information provided here, it seems reasonable to suggest regular, non-burning sun exposure as a possible prophylactic measure against schizophrenia.