Phototherapy bus stop lamps keep SAD Swedes happy

Light therapy lampIn the city of Umeå, in northern Sweden, officials have installed phototherapy lamps at bus stops to help citizens overcome the effects of 'seasonal affective disorder.'

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression experienced by many due to the shorter days and weaker sunlight of the winter months. As with other forms of depression, therapy and medication are very effective treatments, but in the case of those suffering from SAD, many can find comfort from another form of therapy — light therapy.

Umeå, a city of about 80,000 people, lies at roughly the same latitude as mainland Nunavut, Northwest Territories and the Yukon, and as such, only sees about four to five hours of sunlight in the winter months. Most of the population of Canada sees more than eight hours of sunshine, even on the shortest day of the year, so imagine the Sun rising at around 9:30 a.m. and setting at around 1:45 p.m. It even sounds depressing.

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Snow on the ground in Umeå usually makes the city a bit brighter, by reflecting streetlights, but it hasn't snowed much there this year. To help, the local power generation company, Umeå Energi, replaced all the bulbs in the city's bus stop light fixtures with special phototherapy tubes. These generate 'full-spectrum' light to closely match sunlight (but any unhealthy UV light is filtered out).

"We wanted to show we care about the people living here in Umeå at this dark time of the year," said Umeå Energi CEO Göran Ernstson, according to The Local.

A few of the lights had to be removed, due to complaints by bus drivers about how bright they were, however Umeå Energi head of marketing Anna Norrgård said: "We've been getting a lot of positive feedback from people who are usually really tired at this time of year. We're absolutely thrilled that it's been such a success."