Many people grumble about the inconvenience of Daylight Saving Time. There’s even been a lot of discussion as to whether this practice should be eliminated. Yet, there are those who firmly believe that the benefits outweigh the inconvenience.
Where do you stand? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of Daylight Saving Time to help you decide.
Negative Health Effects
Adjusting to a new sleep schedule during the switch to Daylight Saving Time is difficult for many. But for some folks, the loss of one hour of sleep in the spring can be devastating to their health. A Swedish study revealed a significant increase in heart attack risk in the first three days following the time change in the spring. That same risk went down with the extra hour of sleep in the fall. Car accidents, suicides, and miscarriages have all been linked to the sleep disruption caused by the time change. With the switch back in the fall, the shorter days and darker evenings can trigger or exacerbate mental illness, such as bipolar disease, and Seasonal Affective Disorder. In 2012, a Danish study found an 11% increase in depression-related hospital admissions during the first month following the end of Daylight Saving Time. In addition, an Australian study revealed that male suicide rates increased in the first few days after the start of Daylight Saving Time.
With a work schedule dependent on the sun rather than the clock, farmers are frustrated as chickens take weeks to adjust to the time change. Having to wait an extra hour for dew to evaporate is disruptive and costly, since farm help still leaves at the same time each day while accomplishing less work. Shipping schedules are hard to meet as cows are not ready to be milked an hour earlier.
Parents are concerned about the safety of their children waiting for school buses in the dark when the clock shifts forward one hour in the spring. Work productivity decreases, while workplace injuries rise. A 1992 Canadian study revealed that car accidents increase by 8% following the change to Daylight Saving Time in the spring. The loss of one hour of sleep leads to tired and sleepy drivers causing more accidents. Some argue that the extra daylight hours encourage people to run errands, thereby increasing gasoline consumption. Consider also that hospital patients are at risk for errors, as nurses attempt to adjust medication schedules altered by the time change twice a year.
On the other side of the argument, proponents boast that Daylight Saving Time helps counteract a sedentary lifestyle. Longer evenings encourage people to be outdoors and active–walking, running, biking. More shopping and increased restaurant use, as a result of the additional evening light, benefits the economy. Being outdoors more, people are less likely to use artificial lighting and electronic appliances (TVs, computers, stereos…). This is thought to reduce energy costs. However, studies have shown the actual energy savings to be negligible, thereby casting a shadow on this claim.
How About Traffic Accidents?
As noted earlier, the transition to Daylight Saving Time resulted in more traffic accidents. However, once sleep is stabilized, the extra daylight in the evening led to a reduction in traffic accidents. Studies done in Great Britain and the US have shown that Daylight Saving Time reduces traffic accidents and fatalities by nearly one percent. A correlation has been found between pedestrian fatalities and the weeks following the time change in the fall. In a 2001 study by the University of Michigan, researchers found that 3.5 times more pedestrians were hit and killed by a car in the week following the end of DST.
What About Crime Rates?
Perhaps one of the most significant benefits of Daylight Saving Time is the reduction in robberies and crime in general. Criminals prefer to work in the dark, where they can hide more easily from “witnesses” and avoid being caught. The national cost savings in avoiding robberies by extending Daylight Saving Time for three weeks is estimated to be $59.2 million!
As you can see, Daylight Saving Time itself does not seem to be the true culprit. Clearly, it is the transition period following the time change twice a year that wreaks havoc on people’s lives. So, why DO we still change our clocks back and forth in the spring and fall? Should we opt for Daylight Saving Time all year round, rather than just 8 months? Or should we simply forget it entirely, and stay on Standard Time all year?