The end of the time change, an opportunity for a healthier and more sustainable society

  • We must take advantage of this moment to correct a historical misalignment between social time and solar time.
  • From Barcelona Time Use Initiative we recommend an European-wide debate and we call for a meeting of European heads of state of Western Europe to decide jointly with what time we keep

  • Following the recommendations of experts, the Barcelona Time Use Initiative defends the maintenance of permanent wintertime or, moving to the time zone that belongs to our geographical zone (present time in Lisbon and London).

  • Maintaining the most similar time to our solar time would offer us the opportunity to improve overall the health of all citizens.

[Press Release Barcelona Time Use Initiative for a Healthy Society, 27th March 2020].-

These days we are once again realizing how important public and individual health is to welbeing and the economy. The time change we are experiencing this weekend is an unhealthy practice and must be eliminated if we are to live in a healthier and more sustainable society. Not so many years ago, the solar time, marked by the movement of the Earth around the sun depending on the geographical place of residence, marked what has been called the biological clock, which regulates our bodily functions in cycles of approximately 24 hours. , and the so-called social time, which can be assimilated to our watch, or mobile clock, and tells us when we need to do everything in society, were coincident.

With the arrival of the clock, industry, trade, globalization and modern society in general, these two hours have in many cases separated. This is what scientists have called social jet lag, a mismatch between our biological clock and social time.

The social jet-lag has similar effects to the jet-lag of the trips in our body: difficulty for sleeping, anxiety, lack of appetite, etc. but instead of being a one-off problem, it goes on with time. That is why most chronobiologists and sleep doctors argue that the difference between social time and solar time ahould be as small as possible.

In fact, the European Biological Rhythms Society (EBRS) signed a manifesto in October 2018 for the European Commission, recommending that all of Europe stay at the permanent standard time (always keeping wintertime) in order to get more light in the morning during winter and reduce the amount of night light in summer.

Benefits of keeping winter time

According to various chronobiology studies, maintaining winter time all year would have seven clear health benefits: 1) better heart health, 2) less overweight, 3) less cancer incidence, 4) reduced alcohol and tobacco use 5) improvements in mental health 6) more school and work productivity and 7) better sleep. Maintaining the time most similar to our solar time suddenly offers us the opportunity to improve the health of all citizens. In the same direction, the Advisory Board for Time Use Reform Initiative (CARH) pronounced in 2018 in a report commissioned by the Generalitat of Catalonia, which advocated the abolition of time change because “it has an impact on people by sleep disturbances ”and recommended keeping winter time throughout the year. Thus, according to the CARH, winter time “is the one that allows better adjustment to the more general times of the population, especially taking into account current school hours.” That is why, with winter time all year round, people’s activity is more adapted to daylight hours. The fact that there is more light in the morning can help people to start their work day and school earlier.

The Time Use Reform Advisory Council stated that with summertime all year “the main problem would be the lack of light in the morning in the winter months, because in winter it would not be clear until 9:15 a.m. ” Then, more light in the evening and less in the morning “can cause more sleep disturbance and more time discrepancy, especially in people who already have a delayed sleep rhythm and sleep deprivation.” For children and teens, having summer time in winter also does not help synchronize with school hours and favors the evening trend, which may decrease academic performance. The circadian clock modulates all the body’s functions throughout the day. According to that study, at the general population level, daylight saving time can cause an increase in circadian mismatch. Therefore, as Fabian Mohedano, the initiator of the Time Use Reform Initiative, states, “maintaining winter hours all year long would lead to a healthier society.”

Pending final decision In 2019, the European Parliament adopted the Commission’s proposal to abolish the time change. State governments now need to determine their position and then a joint decision will be reached at the Council of Europe. Today, the Government of Spain has to choose between three possible options:

  • Always keep wintertime (UTC +1)
  • Always keep summertime (UTC +2)
  • Always keep the solar time (we would have the current London winter time) (UTC +0)

In view of the arguments set forth, the Barcelona Time Use Initiative for a Healthy society (BTUI) claims for the need to debate at a European level, especially between the states located in Western Europe and which are within the same time slot as Spain (Belgium, Netherlands, France and Luxembourg), in order to coordinate the final decision.

Following the recommendations of the expert bodies, the BTUI defends the maintenance of the winter time schedule permanently, or move to the time zone that belongs to our geographical zone (UTC + 0) permanently.

This change, together with the progressive introduction of healthier schedules, can make a difference in many aspects of our health, as well as provide economic and environmental benefits (reduction of accidents, reduction of energy consumption, regulation of mobility). during peak hours, etc.).

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