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Questioning Daylight Savings

The Medium with Lisa Kramer 10 November 2019

 

f you did not remember to set your clocks back one hour on November 3, you might have found yourselves arriving at your appointments an hour early due to daylight savings.

Daylight saving time (DST) is used to align working hours to the sunlight time available during the day. It is currently used in less than 40 per cent of countries worldwide. DST is determined by the legislation in each municipality, with 66 municipalities observing DST in Ontario.

In Ontario, the local standard time is forwarded an hour in the spring and turned back an hour in the fall.

The use of DST in Canada dates back to 1908, but its first notable use globally was by Germany in 1916 in efforts to preserve electricity during the Great War. This practice was quickly adapted by multiple countries and has been implemented on a largely global scale since.

Research and commentary on the effects of time change on our health and lifestyles is mixed. Some say it maximizes sunlight exposure during the day, along with other benefits like reduced electricity usage.

However, there is also increasing research hinting at the disruption caused by the time change.

University of Toronto finance professor Lisa Kramer has researched the effects of time changes on job performance by studying stock markets in multiple countries. The disruption of the time changes on our internal clocks has shown adverse effects on the stock market.

“The Monday following a daylight-saving time change, stock index returns tended to drop significantly on average, consistent with investors becoming more anxious following the time change and becoming less interested in facing financial risk,” said Kramer. 

“In the United States, the drop in markets amounted to roughly thirty billion dollars on average every time the clocks shifted by an hour.”

Reports have also shown increased workplace accidents, health effects, and traffic collisions.

Regarding the time changes in Canada and in its coordination between provinces, taking into account school and work schedules, Kramer believes eliminating DST will be more beneficial to Canadians in the long run. 

“Most of the challenges can be overcome. And I think on balance the benefits of eliminating the twice-yearly clock changes outweigh the concerns.”

Time change may also play a role in students’ fatigue and sleep cycle disruption.

“[The time change] is great for convincing myself to be more productive,” said Aimee Padillo, a fifth-year psychology major at UTM. “It gets tough to be productive and find motivation by the end of fall because it’ll be 5:30 p.m. but already so dark outside as if it’s 8:00 p.m. It feels like I’ve lost so much of my day already.”

“Time is not the issue, it’s the sunlight. Time is arbitrary, we’ll keep adjusting our schedules however we see fit. What really affects us is the hours of sunlight we get and adjusting the clock isn’t enough help,” continued Padillo. 

As professional discussions continue on the benefits and disadvantages of DST and other time changes, stances are being taken around the nation. In British Columbia some municipalities like Chetwynd and Creston have opted to use Mountain Standard Time (MST) all year and have foregone DST. 

Lisa Kramer is a professor of finance at the University of Toronto.