Effect of sunlight exposure on cognitive function among depressed and non-depressed participants: A REGARDS cross-sectional study

Shia T. Kent, Leslie A. McClure, William L. Crosson, Donna K. Arnett, Virginia G. Wadley, Nalini Sathiakumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background. Possible physiological causes for the effect of sunlight on mood are through the suprachiasmatic nuclei and evidenced by serotonin and melatonin regulation and its associations with depression. Cognitive function involved in these same pathways may potentially be affected by sunlight exposure. We evaluated whether the amount of sunlight exposure (i.e. insolation) affects cognitive function and examined the effect of season on this relationship. Methods. We obtained insolation data for residential regions of 16,800 participants from a national cohort study of blacks and whites, aged 45+. Cognitive impairment was assessed using a validated six-item screener questionnaire and depression status was assessed using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Logistic regression was used to find whether same-day or two-week average sunlight exposure was related to cognitive function and whether this relationship differed by depression status. Results. Among depressed participants, a dose-response relationship was found between sunlight exposure and cognitive function, with lower levels of sunlight associated with impaired cognitive status (odds ratio = 2.58; 95% CI 1.43-6.69). While both season and sunlight were correlated with cognitive function, a significant relation remained between each of them and cognitive impairment after controlling for their joint effects. Conclusion. The study found an association between decreased exposure to sunlight and increased probability of cognitive impairment using a novel data source. We are the first to examine the effects of two-week exposure to sunlight on cognition, as well as the first to look at sunlight's effects on cognition in a large cohort study.

Original languageEnglish
Article number34
JournalEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research project is supported by a cooperative agreement U01 NS041588 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or the National Institutes of Health. Representatives of the funding agency have been involved in the review of the manuscript but not directly involved in the collection, management, analysis or interpretation of the data The authors acknowledge the participating investigators and institutions for their valuable contributions: The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama (Study PI, Statistical and Data Coordinating Center, Survey Research Unit): George Howard DrPH, Leslie McClure PhD, Virginia Howard PhD, Libby Wagner MA, Virginia Wadley PhD, Rodney Go PhD, Monika Safford MD, Ella Temple PhD, Margaret Stewart MSPH, J. David Rhodes BSN; University of Vermont (Central Laboratory): Mary Cushman MD; Wake Forest University (ECG Reading Center): Ron Prineas MD, PhD; Alabama Neurological Institute (Stroke Validation Center, Medical Monitoring): Camilo Gomez MD, Susana Bowling MD; University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (Survey Methodology): LeaVonne Pulley PhD; University of Cincinnati (Clinical Neuroepidemiology): Brett Kissela MD, Dawn Kleindorfer MD; Examination Management Services, Incorporated (In-Person Visits): Andra Graham; Medical University of South Carolina (Migration Analysis Center): Daniel Lackland DrPH; Indiana University School of Medicine (Neuropsychology Center): Frederick Unverzagt PhD; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health (funding agency): Claudia Moy PhD.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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