Summer time and winter time

14. June 2021

Is changing the clocks unhealthy?

Is changing the clocks unhealthy?

We all know that time is an important commodity. So, there is the time of day, the time now, summer time and winter time. But what is time? What does it mean for us? It is clear that if you have a lot of time for yourself, your family and friends, you are fine.

You can say that those who have a lot of time for themselves are happier. The spring, summer, autumn and winter, time also determine our lives significantly. Before we deal with the disputes about the pros and cons of summer and winter time, let’s first take a look:

What does philosophy say about time?

For millennia, answering the question of what time is has been entirely a matter of philosophy, theology, and mysticism. In philosophy, the word time describes the form of changes or the sequence of events perceived by human consciousness, according to the textbooks.

First thoughts from Plato

Even in ancient times, the philosophers Plato, Aristotle and Heraclitus, among others, dealt with the concept of time. The first thoughts about time are from Plato.

Plato shifted the question of time to the question of being. For him, time was an image of eternity, of eternal being.

For Aristotle, on the other hand, the concept of time is inextricably linked to changes. Changes happen in time, but that does not apply to time itself. It is not a movement itself, but rather the measure of every movement.

For Isaac Newton, time and space are the “containers” of events. He explained: “Time is, and it ticks evenly from moment to moment.”

Immanuel Kant defines time as a space of the “pure form of intuition”, namely that of the inner sense. “It is our access to the world, so it belongs to the subjective-human conditions of world knowledge …”

Kaiser Wilhelm II was the first 

So much for the philosophers, however, they could not have imagined that one day an argument about time would break out. More precisely, it is about the changing of the clocks from winter time to summer time and vice versa, something that is disputed across Europe. But first of all, let us have a look which was the first country to start the changing of the clocks.

The idea for this came from the US politician and inventor Benjamin Franklin in 1784, who was of the opinion that you could save energy by getting up earlier in the summer. But the idea was first implemented by Kaiser Wilhelm II. 

George Vernon Hudson in 1895 and William Willett in 1907 had the idea of a State-ordered Summer time, and they advocated a seasonal time shift. The publication of these ideas found no supporters in the public or in politics and so they were quickly forgotten.

On 30 April 1916, the German Reich and Austria-Hungary introduced summer time for the first time. The reason was the war economy. The aim was simply to reduce the artificial lighting due to the longer daylight in order to save energy.

Great Britain, Italy and France also decided to change the clocks in the same year. Just three years later, in 1919, it was abolished again in Germany by the Weimar Republic. 

From then on it went back and forth: Greece, Canada, the USA, and the Soviet Union once introduced and abolished it. It was not until 1940, during World War II, that Germany reintroduced summer time to save energy. That soon changed again.

Then things went quiet regarding summer time. It was not until the 1973 that the oil price crisis brought it back into play. In 1981, Switzerland was the last country in central Europe also to introduce summer time. It has been implemented in Germany since 1980. It was not until 1996 that the different summer time regulations in the European Union were standardised. Since then it has been in force in all EU Member States.

Dispute in the EU over summer time

However, despite an EU decision in 2019, the end of the changing of the clocks is not in sight. And so we will probably live with it for a few more years to come. It was planned that summer time would be abolished in 2021, but nothing came of that because the States could not agree.

The European Parliament decided that each Member State can decide for itself whether it wants to introduce permanent winter or summer time. We assume that there will be no agreement until 2025.

Most people clearly prefer summer time, which is what the Germans, French and most of the southern Europeans are committed to. Only the northern countries are against it for good reasons. Here is an example: If summer time would apply all year round, the sun would not rise until 11:00 in Finland. That could encourage depression.

Of course we are happy that the sunset moves from 21:00 to 22:00 in summer. You can stay outside longer, meet friends for a glass of beer or wine in the evening and do sports in daylight until 22:00 Therefore, advocates of summer time also argue that today’s lifestyle has changed. Therefore, it is advantageous for many people to be able to spend their leisure time longer in daylight in the evening.

And yet there is growing displeasure with the weaknesses in decision-making in the EU states.

Does changing the clocks pose a health risk?

Chronobiologists see the risk of increased cardiovascular complaints, inflammatory immune diseases, depression and a lack of concentration and attention in connection with the time change. Even the risk of cancer is said to increase. According to a study by Imre Janszky and Rickard Ljung, switching to summer time increases the risk of heart attacks. Fatigue, sleep disorders, tiredness and moodiness can also be a result of the changing of the clocks.

Critics also state that when the clocks are changed, the adjustment to the new daily rhythm takes at least several days, is harmful to health and reduces productivity during the changeover phase. Physiological studies have shown that some circadian fluctuating hormone levels, similar to that of the stress hormone cortisol, take up to four and a half months to adapt fully to the new circumstances.  

In a representative survey by DAK in October 2019, 29% of the participants stated that the changeover caused them complaints. But that is also part of the truth:

Younger ones want to keep the summer time, while people over 65 years would prefer the winter time. Well, we believe that the dispute for the pros and cons of summer time can only be solved philosophically. However: Unfortunately, we can no longer seek advice from Plato, Aristotle, Isaac Newton and Immanuel Kant.

Why should we keep getting upset? Let us just enjoy spring and the coming summer!

Stay healthy and confident!