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Geomagnetic Storms: Association with Incidence of Depression as Measured by Hospital Admission

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

Ronald W. Kay*
Westbank Clinic, Falkirk, Stirlingshire


The hypothesis that geomagnetic storms may partly account for the seasonal variation in the incidence of depression, by acting as a precipitant of depressive illness in susceptible individuals, is supported by a statistically significant 36.2% increase in male hospital admissions with a diagnosis of depressed phase, manic-depressive illness in the second week following such storms compared with geomagnetically quiet control periods. There is a smaller but not statistically significant increase in female psychotic depression and non-psychotic depression admissions following storms. There was no correlation between geomagnetic storm levels and number of male admissions with psychotic depression, which is consistent with a threshold event affecting predisposed individuals. Phase advance in pineal circadian rhythms of melatonin synthesis may be a possible mechanism of causation or be present as a consequence of 5-hydroxytryptamine and adrenergic system dysfunction associated with geomagnetic disturbance. Effects on cell membrane permeability, calcium channel activity and retinal magneto-receptors are suggested as possible underlying biochemical mechanisms.

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Copyright © 1994 The Royal College of Psychiatrists 

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