How does lighting affect mental health in the workplace

Poor lighting often gets overlooked in the workplace, as we talk about mental health and well-being. While bad lighting is associated with a range of ill-health effects, both physical and mental, such as eye strain, headaches, fatigue and also stress and anxiety in more high-pressured work environments.

Joao Jesus

As we spend much of the day in artificial lighting, there is evidence that the lack of natural sunlight has an adverse effect on the body and the mind, and can result in conditions such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

© Danielle Levy


A number of studies have also confirmed that decreased sun exposure has been associated with a drop in your serotonin levels, which can lead to major depression with a seasonal pattern.


As noted by Wunsch in an interview with Dr. Alexander Wunsch, a German physician and one of the world’s leading experts in photobiology:

“Sunlight induces coordinated endocrine adaptation effects. It affects sympathetic and parasympathetic activity, and is a major circadian and seasonal stimulus for the body clock …

Our system, via the eyes and via the skin, detects the colors of the light in the environment in order to adapt the hormonal system to the specific needs of the time and place.”

Video credit: Inside Science


Another report from a study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, office workers with more light exposure at the office had longer sleep duration, better sleep quality, more physical activity and better quality of life compared to office workers with less light exposure in the workplace.


According to the study, employees with windows in the workplace received 173 percent more white light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night than employees who did not have the natural light exposure in the workplace. There also was a trend for workers in offices with windows to have more physical activity than those without windows.

While workers without windows reported poorer scores than their counterparts on quality of life measures related to physical problems and vitality, as well as poorer outcomes on measures of overall sleep quality and sleep disturbances.

References: Health Line | NCBI | Forbes | Mercola| Harvard Health Publishing| Northwestern Medicine