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GLOOMY TIME

Getting to work before sunrise and leaving after sunset during winter months can lead to serious mental health problems, a charity has warned.

Going without daily sunlight can lead to feelings of lethargy and depression which may develop into seasonal affective disorder (Sad), Mental Health Research UK said.

The warning came as a poll found that three in 10 adults get up before sunrise during the winter months and return home from work after sunset. The charity's survey of 2,000 British adults also found that half were concerned that their workplace had little natural light. Almost one in 10 said they had no access to natural light at all while at work.

BUILDING CHEER

New year cheer over the economy continued as figures revealed that activity in the construction sector grew at its fastest pace for more than six years at the end of 2013.

The fourth quarter rate of expansion was the best since the third quarter of 2007 - despite a slight easing in the pace of growth last month from a peak in November, according to the closely-watched Markit/CIPS purchasing managers' index for construction.

The survey showed a reading of 62.1 in December, down from 62.6 the previous month, but still well above the 50 level that separates growth from contraction. Apart from November, the reading has not been as high since August 2007. It marks eight months of continuous growth in the sector.

VITAMIN BOOST Children are likely to have stronger muscles if their mothers had a higher level of vitamin D in their body during pregnancy, according to new research.

The study by the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit (MRC LEU) at the University of Southampton found that, by the age of four, children's grip strength and muscle mass were seen to increase with higher levels of the vitamin in the pregnant mother.

A university spokesman said low vitamin D status has been linked to reduced muscle strength in adults and children, but little was known about how variation in a mother's status during pregnancy affected her child. A total of 678 mothers took part in the research, which is published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS

Fashion chain Next joined the list of Christmas retail winners as it said sales over the festive season had been "significantly" better than expected.

The group hiked its profits forecast for the second time in just over two months after the robust performance, with pre-tax profits for the year to January 25 now expected to surge by up to 12.6%.

Next joins rivals Johns Lewis and House of Fraser in celebrating buoyant festive trade, but a shock profits warning from troubled Debenhams earlier this week revealed the pressure on some high street retailers.

HOUSING WORRIES

One in 11 people is starting the new year dogged by worries over how they can afford to pay their rent or mortgage, according to charity Shelter.

Some 9% of more than 4,000 people surveyed said they will fret about keeping the roof over their heads during January, as the hangover from Christmas bills kicks in.

Families were found to be the worst affected, with more than two-thirds (70%) of rent- or mortgage-payers with children saying they are either finding it tough to keep up with their payments or have fallen behind, compared with 63% of the general population of rent- or mortgage-payers. The research was undertaken in November for Shelter, which helps three million people a year with housing problems.

TIME TO SELL?

More than half of people believe that 2014 would be a good time to sell a property as housing market confidence continues to blossom, a survey has found.

For the first time since Halifax's regular housing market confidence tracker began in April 2011, the proportion of consumers who predict the next 12 months will be a good time to put a home on the market outweighed those who believe it will be a bad time.

Some 51% of nearly 2,000 people surveyed said this year will be a good time to sell, compared with 39% thinking it will be a bad time, according to the research carried out between late November and early December 2013.

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