Surprising research about weather and your mood

The findings may not be what you think

How the weather impacts your mood may not be what you think..

If you are in the throes of an endless winter, walloped by blizzard after blizzard, or a brutally hot summer with no relief in sight, you may feel that the weather has a big impact on your mood. For some, Seasonal Affective Disorder can be a serious mood disorder that increases depressive symptoms, often in the fall and winter months that have shorter days and longer nights. It is also commonly believed that a beautiful sunny day has a positive impact on people's moods.

 This article takes a closer look at the question on how weather effects people's moods.

Research on weather and mood

Researchers from Germany looked into this question of how the weather impacts one's mood. They took into consideration factors such as rain and snow, temperature, air pressure, sunlight and wind, and surveyed just over twelve hundred participants. Most subjects in the study began their participation in the fall. All subjects' zip codes were collected.

The Big Five Personality Trait Test

The first set of questions that participants answered were from the "Big Five Inventory," which is a psychological assessment that measures broad personality traits across five main dimensions. Such dimensions include openness to new experiences, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

Online diary questionnaires

Participants were then asked to keep a daily online diary about whether their mood was positive or negative, and their level of tiredness.

Researchers also looked into their general levels of social activity and how much participants slept. 

Participants were only able to complete the diary between the hours of 9pm and 4am. They were asked to complete daily quesitionnaires twenty-five of thirty days. The average number of daily questionnaires actually completed was closer to fourteen.

Weather data

Researchers collected objective weather data from weather stations from the German Weather Institute. Such weather data was matched to participants' zip codes to determine whether people's moods were related to the weather. Information such as minimum, maximum and mean temperature, wind power, air pressure, amount of sunlight and precipitation were collected.

Overview of results

Surprising to many, researchers found that the weather had no significant effect on participants' positive mood as a general rule. Rather, it was found that both the direction and strength of the effects of weather on participants' positive mood differed by individuals. The commonly held belief that sunny bright days and pleasant weather generally makes people happier was not supported by this research.

It was determined that temperature, wind and level of sunlight had a significant effect on negative mood. Sunlight also seemed to have an effect on participants' energy level. The authors speculated that sunlight's effects on tiredness may have something to do with Vitamin D3, which is indicated in the production of serotonin.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved with mood and level of energy.

Interestingly, the study also demonstrated that the results from the Big Five Personality Inventory and subjects' gender and age did not have anything to do with their response to the weather variables. Since personality traits seemed to bear no influence on how people respond to different weather scenarios, the researchers brought up the possibility that weather sensitivity is an independent trait separate from other personality traits.

Understandably, some individuals are negatively impacted by weather variables more than others, and are therefore more at risk for problems like Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Conclusion to the study

While there are some common themes around the effects of weather on mood, this research shows that one's response to the weather seems to be very individualistically determined.


Denissen, J J A, Butalid, L, Penke, L and van Aken, M A G. (2008) The Effects of Weather on Daily Mood: A Multilevel Approach. Emotion, 8(5): 662-667.

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