Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, talks to media in Whitehorse on Feb. 15, 2018. Hanley says if the Yukon has a set time year-round, health impacts would not be something to be too worried about. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Health impacts are ‘minor’ if the Yukon does away with the seasonal time change, says chief medical officer

The Yukon government put out a public engagement survey earlier this week

If the Yukon has a set time year-round, health impacts would not be something to be too worried about, according to the territory’s chief medical officer.

“I think any health concerns are relatively minor in the bigger picture of what do people want and what’s the most logistically convenient for society to run at,” said Dr. Brendan Hanley.

Yukoners are now able to weigh-in on whether they would want to do away with resetting clocks. The concept has been batted around for years. Another leading reason behind launching the public engagement period is what’s happening in British Columbia.

That province recently passed legislation to avoid switching clocks, landing on Daylight Saving Time. Changes could come in March, according to a Yukon government fact sheet. B.C. is looking beyond its borders, south, at coastal states like Washington, Oregon and California, which have also debated fixing their clocks.

Health impacts are typically associated with the loss of sleep, leading to workplace injuries and collisions, Hanley said. Seasonal affective disorder is another one.

“Probably the most concerning is fatigue, the sleep loss associated with injuries,” he said.

Hanley said most studies into issues like these centre on the spring switch.

“So, probably the main advantage is not having that spring switch, where people tend to lose an hour of sleep.”

It also boils down to preference, Hanley said, and lifestyle, whether people are eating well, limiting their alcohol consumption, getting physical exercise and taking advantage of sunlight.

“I think the reality for us in the North is we have limited hours of daylight in the winter, and probably the bigger impact rather than daylight saving or not is dealing with darkness, which certain people have more difficulty with than others.

“I do think that the differences we have between winter and summer are the bigger factor than the incremental changes of an hour.”

Public feedback will likely be similar to that of B.C.’s, Hanley said.

“Obviously, it makes sense for us to align ourselves with the pacific coast, wherever that goes.”

He doesn’t think that the Yukon government needs to study potential heath impacts that could crop up in the territory.

“Because I think even in the large studies the impacts are relatively transient and minor and I don’t think it’s information we would capture well here. It’s one of those areas we would better rely on the large population studies that actually could show a difference.”

It would be important to track health impacts, however, if certain jurisdictions along the coast make the switch and the Yukon follows suit, Hanley said.

Yukoners have until Feb. 16 to complete the survey, which can be found here: https://survey.gov.yk.ca/SeasonalTimeChangeSurvey.aspx

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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