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What You May Not Know About Daylight Savings Time

| March 07, 2019
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Look out!  Daylight Savings Time is just around the corner.  And while many of us enjoy the days getting longer, that first week after we set our clocks forward can sometimes be a hard adjustment!  

So how did this practice get started anyway, and besides longer days, are there any real benefits for making this adjustment twice a year? And what are the “costs?” I did some digging to find out.  The results may surprise you. 

Daylight Savings Time (DST) - a seasonal time change in which we set our clocks ahead of standard time by 1 hour - is not an American invention.   In fact, the practice began with our neighbors to the north when the residents of Thunder Bay in Canada set their clocks forward by one hour on July 1, 1908.    Other cities in Canada soon followed suit, but it did not become a popular practice until about 8 years later in 1916 when Germany became the first to implement DST as a country nationwide.  Clocks were turned forward by one hour on April 30, 1916 – two years into World War I.  The rationale at the time was to use natural light to save fuel for the war effort.

The actual invention of DST came much earlier:  from New Zealand scientist George Vernon Hudson and British builder William Willett, who proposed the idea in front of the Wellington Philosophical Society back in 1895.  While an interesting idea at the time, it did not catch on right away.  Today, DST is used in over 70 countries, impacting over 1 billion people every year, even though the beginning and end dates each year do vary from country to country. 

So, with such widespread use, are there really more benefits than costs?  You decide:

Some experts argue that DST can have a negative effect on one’s health.  Studies have shown that the lack of sleep that often comes with the start of DST has been linked to car accidents, workplace injuries and even suicide!  The transition to DST has also been linked to increased incidents of heart attacks and depression.

Does DST actually save energy?    Well, that likely used to be the case when DST was first introduced, because with more daylight, people used less artificial light.  However, these days, with computers, TVs and air conditionings sometimes running 24 x 7, it’s more likely that any energy savings created from DST is fairly negligible. 

In spite of this, popular opinion considers the longer evenings created by DST to be a benefit:  people are motivated to get out of the house more for outdoor recreation in the evenings during DST.  It’s widely felt that tourism benefits from longer evenings for the same reason.   Studies have also shown that more light in the evenings makes roads safer and cuts down on crime.

Whether Daylight Savings Time is a blessing or a curse, then, is likely up to each individual’s experience with it. Regardless of your position on the pros and cons of Daylight Savings Time, it appears to be here to stay.  Make sure you set your clocks forward this Sunday, March 10th!

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