Season of your birth affects your mood in later life

Why your season of birth affects your mood

I’m turning 40 early in the new year and planning to celebrate fearlessly and fabulously with a mid-summer cocktail party. I’m a summer baby, and according to new research that means I have a tendency to be excessively positive! I’m sure I can grumble with the best of them, but my husband confirms he wouldn’t have married me if I wasn’t upbeat!!

I’ve always boxed any association between personality and season of birth with astrology and other folklore. But, I’m prepared to change my mind on birth season and temperament (not astrology, yet!) after digging more into this research.

The season in which you’re born impacts your mood.

In the latest study, a group of researchers from Budapest, Hungary presented evidence showing that the season you are born has a significant impact on your risk of developing mood disorders (such as depression or anxiety).

The researchers asked about 400 university students to fill out a questionnaire that aimed to determine which of four kinds of temperaments they most personified. The questions included things like “My mood often changes for no reason” and “I love to tackle new projects, even if risky” and “I complain a lot.” The students’ answers were then correlated with their birthdays.

Spring, summer, autumn or winter baby?

Here are the statistically significant trends the researchers found:

  • People born in summer have more rapid, frequent swings between sad and cheerful moods compared to people born in the winter.
  • Spring and summer-born people have a tendency to be excessively positive.
  • Those born in the winter were significantly less prone to irritability than those born at other times of the year.
  • People born in autumn show a significantly lower tendency to depressive temperament than those born in winter.

According to lead researcher, Assistant Professor Xenia Gonda,

“Biochemical studies have shown that the season in which you are born has an influence on certain monoamine 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.”

The group can’t yet say anything about the mechanisms involved. But they are now looking to see if there are genetic markers which are related to season of birth and mood disorder.

And it is also worth noting that this research was reported at an annual conference, and as yet is not published, replicated, or peer-reviewed.  So we shouldn’t starting wondering if we should fund neuroscience/astrology research just yet!

That said, other research has found correlations between health and month or season of birth. Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are more likely to be suffered by people born in the winter months, and people born in spring are more prone to depression.

Month of birth also has a significant effect on subsequent multiple sclerosis risk. People born in spring are at increased risk of developing MS compared to those born in autumn (risk is highest in the month of April and lowest in October in the northern hemisphere). It’s thought this is likely to be due to ultraviolet light exposure and maternal vitamin D levels.

Commenting on the latest research for the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Professor Eduard Vieta said:

Seasons affect our mood and behaviour. Even the season at our birth may influence our subsequent risk for developing certain medical conditions, including some mental disorders. What’s new from this group of researchers is the influence of season at birth and temperament.

Temperaments are not disorders but biologically-driven behavioral and emotional trends. 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.

Above story is based on a press release provided by European College of Neuropsychopharmacology.  Image credit: Pixabay

What season were you born in?  Do you agree with the findings based on your own temperament?

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  1. Monica Ramos on October 24, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Fascinating! You always post great articles. I’m currently studying brain personality connections in relation to one’s natural lead quadrant of the brain, and taking into account other considerations such as birth order, upbringing, gender, introversion/extroversion, emotional traumas, and so on. But birth season is something I never thought to consider. Interesting stuff here. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Justin Coleman on October 25, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Thanks Sarah: I saw the news about the study but I don’t think the original stats are available yet – please someone point me to them if they are, as I’d love to see them. This is the sort of study you would want to see replicated a few times before you gave it any credence, I think, despite news headlines around the world.

    Let me bore the reader with my explanation, if anyone is interested.

    The fact that some features are associated with one season and some with two seasons looks very much like the authors may have crunched through tens or even hundreds of possible combinations of seasons versus answer score numbers. In other words, they were not testing a single hypothesis (e.g. that Winter babies are less prone to irritability), but fishing for any associations of any sort. In other words, they may have tested every season or grouping of two seasons with however many moods or personality traits they measured, and simply reported any which were significant.

    If, for example, you test 8 seasons (8 because they also allow the four 2-season groupings) against ten personality trait scores each, the chances of statistically significant findings (p<0.05) among those 80 combinations is very high – indeed, it would be unusual NOT to find them.

    That's why replicating the findings is crucial – if the next study tests merely one (or even all four) of the findings and they still remain p<0.05, that would be far more indicative that they are onto something. Only then should we bother speculating about mechanism of action. If none of the four findings are replicated, we save ourselves the speculation, and the authors make way for someone else's moment in the spotlight.

    From your friendly sceptic, Justin Coleman.

    • Sarah McKay on October 26, 2014 at 6:20 pm

      Everyone needs many friendly skeptical friends – thanks Justin!!
      No original paper…. But I’ll add the link when it turns up. I’m assuming that it was presented by the authors at the ENCP conference that was on last week.
      Yep, you’re completely right about multiple analyses eventually giving some significance eventually. Happened when I was doing my own Phd!!!
      I guess I found it interesting here, and why I wasn’t going to dismiss is because I’ve read around the MS literature (my Mum has MS and I’ve always been fascinated by the latitude of diagnosis in New Zealand) and the month of birth correlations there are strong (see the linked BMJ paper). So it’s interesting to see similar (if un-replicated and yet to be peer-reviewed!!) findings relevant to mental health.

  3. Dr Pieter Dahler, DDS, MD, ND (hon Prof ), PhD on November 10, 2014 at 12:22 am

    I think and believe after reading other research and having treated people with mood disorders, that the Vitamin D3 levels of the mother at time of pregnancy may have an underlying relationship to the neuro-development of the offsprings. Later in life as the baby and upwards in the years Life is experineced, equally so the influnece of the Vit D3 levels will reflect mood experiences. We understand that higher levels of Vit D3 promotes health and health-challenges prevention. It is related to the production ability of one’s mitochondria to produce the ATP. Most if not all etiology of healthiness gone wrong is the chronic fatigue of our trillions of cells due to the lack of ATP production…which is easily remedied with the proper supplementation of foods or adjuncts (supplements) of the basic components of ATP.

    • Sarah McKay on November 24, 2014 at 10:06 am

      Great points Pieter – I should look up a bit more info on Vitamin D. A hot topic at the moment!!

  4. Paul Eccles on November 10, 2014 at 12:27 am

    This study is interesting from my own viewpoint.

    Life at the Equator is not governed by the seasons as it is further North and South. As we originated there we have no seasonal breeding or mating behaviour, though Neanderthals may have been influenced, if not fully adapted to seasonal change and childbirth, Spring being the optimal time for survival of the young.

    To my mind the key would be daylight hours at the time of birth and early development.

    I think to fully establish this, similar tests should be trialled on an Equatorial group, to compare with those trialled in places with distinct seasonal changes.

    • Sarah McKay on November 24, 2014 at 10:05 am

      Interesting point – not sure you could run a trial in that manner, but retrospective data based on birthdate and place could be collected.

  5. joan taylor on November 11, 2014 at 1:42 am

    This is another avenue that seems true to what observations I have detected. I was born in spring, and I definitely come alive with renewed energy around March. I always thought it was normal for us all, since winter can be oppressive, and spring is a renewal (esp in climates with severe cold snowy weather). I do have other considerations, as I experienced sexual trauma at a very early age, and I have come to understand that my mother did not enjoy or look forward to children. Just prior to the month of my birth I always found that I went into a deep depression, Feb/Mar…once I realized that this was an annual thing, I started to observe my feeling each year, as to when and why…when I seemed to realize the truth, I was able to let go and be free of the oppression and symbolically give it back to the source….I am much happier now and the positive self shines through, actually I have forgotten the darkness, and am better able to look forward to spring even in late Fall, as I would normally start the “winter dread” at this time. So winter does not seem so bad anymore. Leta wait to see how this one goes.
    Also I was discussing this concept of seasons of one’s birth with my adult daughter, and her comment was: “Sure haven’t you noticed people who are born in summer all have bubbly cheerful dispositions”
    I plan to pay more attention to others time of birth.

    I also wanted to add an important quote that I found on MPBN radio one day while driving, it was so porfound that I had to pull over and write it down to insure I got it correct: This was the result of a study: That, ” Patterned, repetitious physical activity
    , opens up the neuro pathways in the brain.” The study was done on and for children with brain disorders, and since I was interested in getting my yoga into schools (as well as with vets) this was important as my 26 poses works 100% of the body, and is always done in the same order each and every class. Just a side note.
    Thank you,
    Thank you,

    • Sarah McKay on November 24, 2014 at 10:04 am

      Thanks for all this Joan.
      I wonder if you’ve heard of the line ‘what fires together, wires together’ … another way of saying and remembering: “Patterned, repetitious physical activity, opens up the neuro pathways in the brain.”

  6. anonymous on October 31, 2015 at 10:21 pm

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