Can the weather affect my mood?


| 8 Comments

Lately I've found that on humid, rainy, gray days my mood and energy level are lower than on bright, sunny days.  Is this a coincidence, or is there some science behind this?  Have you heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) before?  The gist of it is that people who are not normally depressed show signs of depression in the fall and winter months, particularly in the northern states where winter is harshest.  Although I was curious about SAD, I wanted to know more generally how the weather (on a day-to-day basis) could affect how I feel.


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 Photo courtesy of FRO 2012


According to Psych Central's founder and editor-in-chief, John Grohol, PSYD, there is  a connection between weather and mood.  More specifically, from the numerous studies outlined, there's a connection between weather and worsening mood.  He states that there is less evidence for weather to improve mood, but there are decades of research showing that cool, rainy days can make a person feel less than 100%.

 

I didn't want to simply accept Grohol's article as truth, so I searched for more data.  I came across Keller's (2005) study on the topic.  In the literature review of his study "A Warm Heart and A Clear Head," Keller presents both possibilities - that weather both does, and does not affect mood.  He cites close to a dozen previous studies that demonstrate a connection, as well as one large study performed with college students in Texas that argues no connection.

 

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Photo courtesy of Discovery News


I still remained curious, since I had only found conflicting answers thus far.  My next source, the Denissen (2008) study was the most thorough study I had encountered.  It took into consideration the Keller study mentioned above, as well as some of the sources mentioned in that article.  It was done very recently and tried to account for all of the variables that were missing in previous studies.  For example, Denissen's study considered six variables of weather (temperature, wind pressure, precipitation, sunlight, air pressure, and photoperiod) and controlled for individual personality differences, age, gender, and the variation in seasons.

 

1,233 German people participated in the study.  They ranged in age from 13-68, with the mean age around 28 years old.  1092 of the participants were women (that's 88.6%).  Before starting the experiment (which took place over the internet), the participants performed a common personality assessment (Big Five Inventory).  The actual study results were measured on the PANAS mood scale, the same scale that the other studies measured their results on (which makes sense, why reinvent the wheel?).  So, after making what appears to be a sound study-design, what did Denissen find?  The results were consistent with Keller and Watson's findings from previous studies - weather doesn't have an overall affect on mood.  While there are individual differences, there is no clear connection to be drawn among certain personality traits and weather's effects (the Big Five Inventory doesn't give explain which that certain people with trait A will be affected more than people with trait B).

 

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Photo courtesy of this blog


So what does this mean for you and me?  Well, since there is no direct connection that we can generalize to a whole population, nothing should change.  Every day we can wake up and decide how we will feel that day.  If it's rainy, sleeting, snowing, windy (welcome to State College...), that won't necessarily bring us down.  Since I know I've been feeling tired on rainy days, I'll just have to bring my bright rain boots and umbrella out and cheer up those who are feeling sleepy too!


8 Comments

I actually found this article very relevant to how I have been feeling lately. The other day, it was a raining late afternoon and I felt like painting my nails. Normally I reach for my bright neon colors or my pale green or purple but today I reached for the black. After I was finished, I realized how pale and goth this black nail polish made me look. I walked into my friends room and showed her my hands and I said "I blame the rain". Honestly I actually felt like it was the gloomy weather that made me paint my nails to match the weather. Therefore, I was a little surprised to find out that weather doesn't affect mood because it sure did for me. Painting my nails black is just not something I do, ever. But maybe it's all in my head.

There are actually a number of studies that prove that weather can affect one's mood! One example is E. Howarth and M.S. Hoffman's A multidimensional approach to the relationship between mood and weather . Howarth and Hoffman had 24 college students fill out a questionairre for 11 days in a row, and results included weather both positively and negatively affecting the students' moods. For example, humidity negatively affected concentration levels while sunshine increased the students' overall feelings of optimism.

Another thing that came to mind while reading your article is the claims I've heard that sunshine can boost your mood - and that it even plays a role in depression! Maybe this idea is too relevant to the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) idea that you were trying to steer clear of in this blog, as you were trying to focus more on a day-to-day effect, but wouldn't a serotonin boost give a sunny day an advantage over a rainy day with no serotonin boost?

The questions you raised is a good one. In my opinion, weather can affect our mood on a day-to-day basis. There is no doubt that a large amount of people would agree it's harder to get out of bed on a rainy morning than a bright and sunny morning!

Megan,

My initial belief when writing this blog was that weather definitely affects my mood. I definitely appreciate your efforts to continue the conversation and offer another viewpoint. However, I disagree with the study that you presented in return. For starters, your source is from 1984, and mine was conducted in 2008, keeping in mind previous research. Secondly, the study took place over a shorter period of time (11 days, rather than 30 days). Next, the study likely took place in England, as it was published in the British Journal of Psychology . Great Britain is notorious for its persistent rain, so it may not have much of an effect on the locals. Another large difference in the studies is the number of participants and the age ranges (although Denissen tried to control for this). Your example had 24 participants ranging in ages from 17-25. My study had 1,233 participants with an age range of 13-68 (mean around 28). I think the study you chose was too small of a sample and cannot be used to generalize to other populations.

So while I am surprised by the Denissen findings I cited, I am not sold on the Howarth findings from your comment. Can you find something else to persuade me?

This blog reminded me of my homeroom teacher in highschool. One day I walked in the room and she was sitting under a very bright light in front of her computer. I asked why she had that light like that and she said in the winter she gets very depressed, and this light helps her. Odd as it may seem it's true. I looked it up and in a NYtimes article it discussed this light thearpy that is used for people with "the winter blues," also known as seasonal affective disorder. There was a study that was a randomized control trial done on these lamps suggesting they need a closer look at their affects on depressed people in general. The study involved 89 patients ages 60 and older. "Compared with a placebo, light therapy improved mood just as well as conventional antidepressant medications," said Dr. Ritsaert Lieverse, the paper’s lead author and a psychiatrist at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam. As a result, “light therapy is now evolving as an effective depression treatment not only to be used in seasonal affective disorder,” said Dr. Lieverse. So looking at what you said, seasonal changes seem to have a larger effect on a person than the weather on a certain day.

This blog reminded me of my homeroom teacher in highschool. One day I walked in the room and she was sitting under a very bright light in front of her computer. I asked why she had that light like that and she said in the winter she gets very depressed, and this light helps her. Odd as it may seem it's true. I looked it up and in a NYtimes article it discussed this light thearpy that is used for people with "the winter blues," also known as seasonal affective disorder. There was a study that was a randomized control trial done on these lamps suggesting they need a closer look at their affects on depressed people in general. The study involved 89 patients ages 60 and older. "Compared with a placebo, light therapy improved mood just as well as conventional antidepressant medications," said Dr. Ritsaert Lieverse, the paper’s lead author and a psychiatrist at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam. As a result, “light therapy is now evolving as an effective depression treatment not only to be used in seasonal affective disorder,” said Dr. Lieverse. So looking at what you said, seasonal changes seem to have a larger effect on a person than the weather on a certain day.

This blog reminded me of my homeroom teacher in highschool. One day I walked in the room and she was sitting under a very bright light in front of her computer. I asked why she had that light like that and she said in the winter she gets very depressed, and this light helps her. Odd as it may seem it's true. I looked it up and in a NYtimes article it discussed this light thearpy that is used for people with "the winter blues," also known as seasonal affective disorder. There was a study that was a randomized control trial done on these lamps suggesting they need a closer look at their affects on depressed people in general. The study involved 89 patients ages 60 and older. "Compared with a placebo, light therapy improved mood just as well as conventional antidepressant medications," said Dr. Ritsaert Lieverse, the paper’s lead author and a psychiatrist at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam. As a result, “light therapy is now evolving as an effective depression treatment not only to be used in seasonal affective disorder,” said Dr. Lieverse. So looking at what you said, seasonal changes seem to have a larger effect on a person than the weather on a certain day.

This blog reminded me of my homeroom teacher in highschool. One day I walked in the room and she was sitting under a very bright light in front of her computer. I asked why she had that light like that and she said in the winter she gets very depressed, and this light helps her. Odd as it may seem it's true. I looked it up and in a NYtimes article it discussed this light thearpy that is used for people with "the winter blues," also known as seasonal affective disorder. There was a study that was a randomized control trial done on these lamps suggesting they need a closer look at their affects on depressed people in general. The study involved 89 patients ages 60 and older. "Compared with a placebo, light therapy improved mood just as well as conventional antidepressant medications," said Dr. Ritsaert Lieverse, the paper’s lead author and a psychiatrist at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam. As a result, “light therapy is now evolving as an effective depression treatment not only to be used in seasonal affective disorder,” said Dr. Lieverse. So looking at what you said, seasonal changes seem to have a larger effect on a person than the weather on a certain day.

this is a very interesting article but I think in essence the mood situation all depends on the individual. I mean in a certain sense, people can start to feel sad if rain starts because of psychological remembrances for instance someone might remember he/she was in a car accident when it was raining so that individual's chemical balances are fluxed.

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