Geomagnetic storms: association with incidence of depression as measured by hospital admission

Br J Psychiatry. 1994 Mar;164(3):403-9. doi: 10.1192/bjp.164.3.403.


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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder / epidemiology
  • Bipolar Disorder / physiopathology
  • Bipolar Disorder / therapy
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy
  • Female
  • Geological Phenomena
  • Geology
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Magnetics*
  • Male
  • Melatonin / physiology
  • Phototherapy
  • Pineal Gland / physiology
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / epidemiology
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / physiopathology
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / therapy
  • Seasons*
  • Sex Factors


  • Melatonin