How the weather is affecting your mental health, mood - Sovereign Health Group
Articles / Blog
10-20-12 Category: Mental Health

Weather

We have long associated the weather with our emotions, whether it is being happy and excited on a sunny day or depressed and tired when it’s raining. As our planet endures record levels of heat this summer, the question of how exactly weather impacts our mood is more appropriate than ever. Although there is no definitive key revealing which emotions different weather patterns evoke, recent studies have found correlations between mental health and the climate.

Although higher temperatures have been known to cause agitation, a recent study found that hotter temperatures have more of an influence over one’s mood than lower temperatures. Not only do hotter temperatures make it easier for people to feel anxious or irritable, but showed an ability to elevate mood in depressed individuals. The absence of sun and factors like wind increased the rates of depression in the participants.

Climate and depressive disorders

Perhaps the people influenced the most by changes in the weather are those suffering from seasonal affective disorder. A subtype of depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, involves depression induced at the same time of the year, usually in the summer or winter. Although the weather itself is believed to play a role in SAD, one of the major factors contributing to it appears to be the shortening of the days towards the end of each season. The change in length of day can alter one’s internal clock and sleep schedule, affecting serotonin production and feelings of happiness and wellbeing.

Heat does not only cause irritability, but has been linked to increased levels of anger and aggression, according to a 2013 study conducted by Hsiang et al. As temperatures rose, participants showed a 14 percent increase in intergroup conflicts as well as a four percent rise in interpersonal violence. In addition to higher temperatures, rain also suggested a causal relationship between increased rates of aggression. Other studies have supported this ideas as well, with one study finding an association between rain/higher temperatures and decreases in feelings of satisfaction with one’s life, with lower temperatures and no rain leading to higher levels of happiness.

The months of spring and summer, on the hand, have been found to increase the suicide rate in those that are already suffering from depression. The study, conducted by Koskinen et al., found that people who work outdoor jobs were much more likely to commit suicide during the spring months, where indoor workers saw a spike in suicidal behavior during the summer. Similarly, a Swedish study examining suicides between 1992 and 2003 found a peak in the summer and spring as well, with the rate being higher in those taking SSRIs, a type of anti-depressant medication.

Weather and personality type

A recent study on over 400 adolescents found half to be affected by changes in the weather, while the other half did not. Not only were certain people less likely to be affected by seasonal changes, but some seasons actually increased positive emotions in some people. The personality types were broken down into the follo0wing categories:

  • Summer haters – Making up 27 percent of the study, summer haters became less happy as well as more fearful and angry with more heat and sunshine. However, rain actually reduced their anxiety and anger in this case
  • Summer lovers – Consisting of 17 percent of the test group, summer lovers showed reduced levels of fear and anger on days with more sunshine and higher temperatures. For these people, precipitation lead to lower levels of happiness and increases in anxiety
  • Rain haters – Taking up nine percent, this group became angrier and more unhappy on rainy days and calmer with heat and sunshine
  • Unaffected – The largest demographic, 48 percent of the participants were generally unaffected by changes in the weather or seasons

The research done on the connection between psychology and weather is relatively scarce, offering conflicting associations between them at best. Perhaps the answer lies more in why people prefer certain types of weather versus what effect the weather itself may possibly be having. It seems that for every person that feels happiness on a sunny day, there is someone that feels equally happy on a rainy or overcast day.

If you would like to learn more about mood disorders such as depression and their possible link to patterns in the weather, feel free to browse our website or contact Sovereign Health of California at 866-957-4408.

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