Finding Out Whether the Weather Affects Mood

Published: 20th October 2008
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So many things affect mood. When things don't happen the way you expect them, your mood turns sour. Lack of sleep may affect mood like "waking up on the wrong side of the bed." Same can be said with election results and other day-to-day situations.

To find out whether the weather affects people's moods, researchers in Germany gathered 1,233 participants, mostly women, with ages spanning 13 to 68 years old, the average of which is 28.

The study, led by Jaap Denissen of Humboldt University in Berlin, did not only focus on sunny and cloudy but also considered temperature, wind, sunlight, rain and snow, air pressure, and how long the days were.

Personality test were given to all the participants to measure extraversion, neuroticism, how open one is to experiences, and how agreeable and conscientious they are. Daily online diaries were given to them and a questionnaire that measured tiredness, as well as positive and negative moods.

• Positive mood examples: active, alert, attentive, excited

• Negative mood examples: irritable, scared, upset, guilty

• Tiredness was measured by terms such as "sluggish," "sleepy," and "drowsy."

Majority of the participants started the study during the fall season and researchers looked at how much they socialized and slept, getting feedback on those conditions, which can affect mood. Daily weather data were also collected and matched them with the participant's ZIP codes.

Contrary to what many people believe, researchers found that daily temperature, wind, sunlight, precipitation, air pressure, and how long the days were had no significant effect on positive mood.

• Temperature, wind, and sunlight were found to have an effect on negative mood. Sunlight seemed to play a role on how tired people said they were.

• Wind had more of a negative effect on mood in spring and summer than in fall and winter.

• Sunlight had a mitigating effect on whether people reported they were tired on days when it rained.

• People were so varied in how they responded that researchers write that a mood-weather link may still exist for individuals.

• When days become shorter, some people's moods mirrored that, while others actually felt more positive feelings.

According to the authors, those who begin to get darker moods as the days get shorter may be at higher risk for seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.

The study, which appears in the October issue of the journal Emotion, had some limitations. It did not ask the participants how long they spent outdoors. Nevertheless, the results "can be used as a starting point for future research."

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