In Depth

Students aren’t ‘SAD’ Drs. Alovisetti and Keller Discuss Winter Health

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is real, but does not drive Andover students to Graham House during the winter to seek support. “Contrary to [popular] belief, most students come in during the fall,” said Graham House psychologist Dr. Max Alovisetti. SAD is the environment’s effect on a person’s mood. Alovisetti said that since students spend more time indoors during the cold months of winter, this changes their brain chemistry and makes students more susceptible to depression. Dr. Richard Keller, school physician, said that Isham does see a significant increase in visits during winter term. He said, “Winter is a much busier season in any medical practice.” According to Keller, this increase is due to a rise in infections and illnesses such as the common cold and flu. Keller said that the primary cause of most infections is that students spend most of their time indoors during winter term, allowing more exchange of viruses and bacteria between students. Keller added that lack of sleep weakens the immune system and makes students more susceptible to disease or illness. According to Alovisetti, students need to get adequate sleep, as well as keep a balanced diet, prepare for their classes and exercise to decrease stress. Exposure to sunlight can also help to decrease stress. Alovisetti said that contrary to some beliefs, students’ workloads do not become harder in the winter. Instead, students not preparing for assignments and the environment increase tend to increase stress levels. Students need to balance their daily schedule and learn how to cope with the stresses that come with the frigid weather to combat SAD. “[Students should] focus on work, but also on activities that recharge the batteries,” said Alovisetti. Alovisetti believes that the best way for students to keep from stressing out about a test or paper is to do the work. “Studying for the test will help you relax,” said Alovisetti. A student’s activities during a day are a critical factor to the mood of that student. Alovisetti said that students need to engage in activities that make them happy.