The extraordinary effect of weather on behavior
My doctor once mentioned the extraordinary effect of weather on behavior – it affects us in many more ways than we are aware of. He mentioned many things, that sunshine improves mood, that storms (barometric pressure) increases anxiety and promotes anger, and that the arrival of spring induces manic episodes in psychiatric inpatients – who proceed to run down the street naked. I’ve been convinced, but never actually saw the data behind this finding.
Earlier this evening, as our dorm room reached 75% humidity (with our large dehumidifier running constantly) I remembered this and actually looked it up. I found “A multidimensional approach to the relationship between mood and weather“ in the British Journal of Psychology. Put simply, as in their abstract:
Humidity, temperature and hours of sunshine had the greatest effect on mood. High levels of humidity lowered scores on concentration while increasing reports of sleepiness. Rising temperatures lowered anxiety and scepticism mood scores. Humidity was the most significant predictor in regression and canonical correlation analysis.
The authors note fourteen significant relationships, one of which had a P<0.01 (concentration suffered as humidity rose), and another (sunshine) as the sole predictor of optimism. But they touched on an interesting issue in their discussion, as excerpted:
One area of practical concern in the study of weather is the effect it has on classroom and office performance. Typically, the relationship between performance and temperature has been studied (e.g. Bell, 1981). However, the results of the present investigation suggest that humidity might be a variable that influences important aspects of performance, such as attention (concentration) and alertness (sleepiness). Allen & Fischer’s (1 978) work demonstrated that humidity had a greater impact on performance than temperature. The effect of humidity level on performance appears to be an important area for further research.
Humidity’s effect on concentration should also factor into HVAC design, especially in a dormitory like ours, which approaches 90% humidity without a dehumidifier (bought by us), and where the air conditioners have no (functional) condensate drain.
I remember that one rainy day I’d told a friend about it , but he wasn’t buying it. Right then, we walked by a child laying face flat on the concrete, screaming and banging his fists. My friend needed no further proof. Definitely worth a read.
I should really write a full article on this, à la meta-analysis, but I simply don’t have the time. Instead, here are fascinating related articles: