Posted by: Prospector PJ4 MAR 2011
At this time of year we all hope for a little more sunshine to lift the spirits. But the link between weather and mood is more than just a topic for idle chit-chat — it has been scientifically proved.
An article in Ecological Economics reports that higher mean temperatures in the coldest month increase self-reported happiness, whereas higher mean temperatures in the hottest month decrease happiness. Perhaps most surprisingly, rainfall does not significantly affect happiness.
In the context of climate change, these findings suggest that people in high latitude nations may benefit from improved mood as global warming takes hold. But those in countries that already have particularly hot summers would become less happy.
The study correlated data from the World Database of Happiness (yes, really — see worlddatabaseofhappiness.eur.nl/) with the prevailing weather in 67 countries in an attempt to explain differences in self-reported levels of happiness. The database may be useful as the UK Government tries to compile its “happiness index” for the public. Prime Minister David Cameron believes such a survey could guide government policy, and countries such as France and Canada are reported to be considering similar measures. So if only the PM could improve the weather slightly, his chances of re-election would increase significantly.
The World Database of Happiness website provides a “fairly complete” inventory of contemporary publications as well as three homogenous collections of research findings. It defines happiness as “the degree to which an individual judges the overall quality of his life-as-a-whole positively”. And it describes its philosophy thus: “Happiness is a highly valued matter. Most people agree that it is better to enjoy life than to suffer, and endorse public policies that aim at creating greater happiness for a greater number of people.”