07 December 2012

Light Therapy In Northern Bus Stops

Sweden is known as the land of the midnight sun, but this time of the year people in the northern part of the country  hardly see the sun at al. To combat problems due to lack of sunlight, the town of Umeå  has installed phototherapy lights in some of their bus stop shelters.

Winter blues
The short days an the lack of light in Sweden wintertime can result in what we call "winter depression". When this disorder affects people who are otherwise mentally healthy they feel tired, weak and low-spirited without any real cause. When they are exposed to specific wavelengths of artificial light, so called light- or phototherapy, these symptoms are often alleviated.
Swedish bust stop shelter
Bus stop shelters – new engergy resource
In Umeå, 400 kilometers north of Stockholm, the energy company decided to do something about the winter depressions, and in a pilot project they have installed phototherapy lamps at 30 of the town's bus stops. The projects is meant to give people an energy boost when they stand in the brightly lit shelter waiting for a bus.

Clean energy
The light in the bus shelters is said to be harmless, with all of the ultraviolet radiation filtered out, and the electricity that powers the lamps comes from renewable sources.

I have not been to Umeå myself this year, but I saw in Swedish television that commuters and passers by were quite happy with the extra light in the bus shelters. Drives have complained that the lights are blinding, though, so some of them have been subdued to avoid accidents.

I have also felt the tug of the winter blues, so I welcome this experiment. Maybe the time spent waiting for the bus is too short to give any real benefits, but I think the sheer knowledge that you are getting some extra light can cheer you up a bit when you are feeling low.