Rain, rain, go away – how the weather affects your mood

Despite the fact Norwich has the least rainfall of any UK city, when the heavens do open our moods can drop, a sentiment felt by people across the globe.

Multiple studies have been conducted on how rainfall affects our mental health, as well as affecting levels of crime.

One study by Marie Connolly in 2013 found that on days ‘with more rain and higher temperatures [subjects reported] statistically and substantively decreasing life satisfaction’. Connolly also reported that the exact same subjects reported higher life satisfaction on days with lower temperatures and no rain.

Not only that, but SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a type of depression that the majority of sufferers experience during the cold and rainier months (with a minority experiencing SAD in the summer months). The lower temperatures and heavy rainfalls can, therefore, seriously affect your mood as well as the lack of sunlight, lower melatonin levels making us feel sleepier than normal.

In 2008, a paper was published suggesting that the weak monsoon seasons were influential in the downfall of three dynasties in ancient China: the Tang, Yuan, and Ming dynasties. By analysing stalagmites in caves, they were able to link seasons with little rainfall to times of social upheaval.

Therefore, if heavy rainfall can make us feel worse than usual, and comparatively little rainfall can influence the overthrowing of dynasties, what else can the weather do to us?

A 2015 analysis of 6.6 million police reports which cover a decade of crime in Manchester showed that crime rates rise with the mercury on a thermometer. However, the rates seem to peak at 18 degrees Celsius, before dropping again, whilst criminals in northern England tend to venture out until temperatures reach 24 degrees celsius.

No one really knows why crime rates drop after these temperatures – some have suggested that would-be offenders are taking a summer holiday – but it may actually be to do with the time of day crimes take place. Often, criminals may be at work or school during the day, and then commit crime in the late afternoon or evening when temperatures are lower anyway.

‘PC Rain’ is often thanked by those in the policing industry. A study in New York City showed that, whilst the average number of homicides a day in New York is two, when there is a heavy summer downfall that number can actually drop all the way to zero.

Opportunistically, the link between rainfall and criminal rates makes a lot of sense – people ‘tend to not want to go out and commit crime in bad weather unless [they’re] desperate,’ said psychologist Dr Keri Nixon.

So the next time you feel a little under the weather, glance out the window and notice what the skies are doing. It might have more of an effect on you than you first think.

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January 2022
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