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How the Weather Affects Our Moods

Study Sheds Light on Whether the Sun, Wind, Rain Sway Our Emotions
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 16, 2008 -- Rainy days always get you down?

Researchers in Germany sought to find out whether day-to-day weather affects people's moods.

Researchers branched out beyond just sunny and cloudy and looked at temperature, wind, sunlight, rain and snow, air pressure, and how long the days were.

The study was led by Jaap Denissen of Humboldt University in Berlin.

The study had 1,233 participants, all living in Germany at the time. Most of the participants were women, the average age was 28, with ages spanning from 13 to 68 years old.

Study participants were first given a personality test that measured extraversion, neuroticism, how open one is to experiences, and how agreeable and conscientious they are.

Then, participants were given a daily online diary and asked to respond to a questionnaire that measured tiredness and positive and negative mood. Examples of positive mood included feeling "active," "alert," "attentive," "excited." Examples of negative mood included feeling "irritable," "scared," "upset," "guilty." Tiredness was measured by terms such as "sluggish," "sleepy," and "drowsy."

Most of the participants began the study in the fall.

Researchers looked at how much the participants socialized and slept, getting feedback on those conditions, which can affect mood.

They also collected daily weather data and matched it to the participants' ZIP codes.

Weather and Mood

Contradicting conventional wisdom, 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.

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

The authors do reveal some limitations. The participants were not asked how long they spent outdoors. But they do add that the results "can be used as a starting point for future research."

The study appears in the October issue of the journal Emotion.

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