Would living somewhere with fantastic weather perpetually lift your spirits? How about if you lived somewhere with terrible weather? Would it make you grumpy after a while? According to a 2008 study, the answer is a counter-intuitive “no”.
Once again, I had to do a double take when I came across this research. A big reason I high-tailed it out of London was the weather. In the UK, the winters are long and dark (it’s pitch black outside at 4pm), and the rest of the year is just grey with sprinkles of sunshine here and there, but rarely a solid few consecutive weeks of sunshine. Being a native Californian, but also having lived under the Carolina blue skies for 8 years, this tiny amount of quality sunlight was hard for me to take, and I swear it affected my mood. In fact, several studies confirm this phenomenon (known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or “SAD”).
However, according to this Psyblog article, other studies suggest that we may just be responding to a culturally transmitted idea that weather affects mood:
“The study found that on average the weather had no effect on people’s positive moods. In other words more sunlight, less wind or a higher average temperature didn’t make people feel happier. On the other hand the study did find that the weather affected people’s negative moods. For example, less sunlight was associated with greater tiredness. But, while the weather may have the potential to make us feel worse, the effects measured in this study were tiny: almost too tiny to be noticed.”
So which is it then? Does SAD exist or does weather have no effect on mood whatsoever? It turns out that the answer is both.
As Jeremy Dean writes, a recent study (2011) has found that people actually fall into one of four distinct groups:
- Unaffected: about half the people in the study fell into this group. For these people it didn’t matter that much whether it was raining or sunny, hot or cold, their mood was mostly unaffected.
- Summer lovers: here’s the group you’d expect. For these people, their mood improved with less rain, more sun and higher temperatures.
- Summer haters: here’s a group of people you hear less about. These were the exact opposite of the summer lovers so they were happier when there was more rain, less sun and lower temperatures.
- Rain haters: this group’s mood didn’t change with the temperature, sunshine or the wind; they just hated the rain.
This would explain the heated discussions my husband and I have had over weather all these years. He falls into the Unaffected group, therefore is not as hell-bent on having good weather as I. This poses a bit of a problem when trying to decide where to settle. To prove my point, I’m constantly rallying examples of others who are in “my camp” to show that weather does affect one’s mood, and he does the same. Turns out that both of us were right all along.
What about you? Does it matter to live somewhere with good weather or are you not bothered?