Don’t ask any questions about it, people. Just shut up and set your clock forward one hour before going to bed this Saturday night, because Daylight Savings Time goes into effect at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 8. And unless you live in Hawaii, Arizona, or one of the cities that doesn’t practice DST, you just have to live with it whether you like it or not.
That doesn’t mean you can’t learn more about it, though. DST didn’t originate for the reason you might have been told, and doesn’t have the same purpose any longer today, either. And what you should really learn about Daylight Savings Time is that it can even be a danger.
Where It Comes From
Were you told as a kid that Daylight Savings Time had something to do with farming efficiency? That it helped Corn Kenny and Wheat-man Willie better tend to their crops? Well, like a lot of stories you were told in elementary school, the one about DST is a crock. It had nothing to do with farming, but with personal pleasures, instead.
New Zealander George Vernon Hudson, an entomologist, first proposed Daylight Savings in 1895. The extra daylight would give him more time to chase down insects after he finished his regular work. Using local media to publish his proposal, other newspapers around the world covered Hudson’s suggestion, too.
Britain’s William Willet liked Hudson’s idea, but for his own personal reasons. Tired of having to stop before reaching the 18th hole, Willet wanted more daylight simply to play golf. He proposed it to Parliament, which eventually took his suggestion some years later.
It was World War I that had the most influence, though, as nations began adopting Daylight Savings time during that phase with the purpose of energy conservation. By 1918, most countries – including the U.S. – followed the procedure.
It’s not always been practiced, though, fading in and out in synchronicity with wars. It bounced around in practice in the U.S. until the Uniform Time Act of 1966 was passed by Congress, but with options that states and cities need not recognize it. Other updates and extensions have been enacted in the U.S., too, with 2005’s Energy Policy Act being the most recent.
Why It Still Operates Today
DST originally expanded in use for energy conservation. While that’s still the basis for its current practice, DST doesn’t do squat in that department, however, multiple studies show. Use of electric lighting might be reduced, but the energy consumed by air conditioners in that hotter time of year increases. There’s a geographic divide, as well. The total savings nationwide amount to 0.03 percent, but only because of reduced energy needs in far-north parts of the U.S.; energy consumption in the south grows during Daylight Savings Time.
So who actually benefits from DST? Retailers! Folks can shop later than they normally do! Vacation sites! Kids are out of school, families are traveling, and they can have more fun when there’s more daylight! Daylight savings lets seasonal industries like landscaping make more money, too!
As for everybody else, though? Meh…
Why It’s Dangerous
DST might make you need an EKG. According to a 2014 medical study, the risk of a heart attack increases 25 percent on the Monday following “spring forward.” There’s no change for the “fall back,” however. A separate study by Swedish physicians says the increased rate of heart attacks continues for the first three days after the spring season time change.
If your heart can take the DST licking and keep on ticking, there are still other risks. Workplace injuries occur more frequently on the Mondays following the springtime hour loss, according to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. The severity of those injuries increases, too.
Daylight Savings Time is also quite depressing, it seems. Australian physicians determined that male suicide rates dramatically increased immediately after the hour-loss in spring. While depression is the chief cause, of course, the doctors conclude:
(S)mall changes in chronobiological rhythms are potentially destabilizing in vulnerable individuals.
So go ahead and prep for Daylight Savings Time this Sunday. Plan your vacation, be ready for extra shopping hours – but you might also want to take some heart meds, use an antidepressant, and call in sick on Monday.