Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a real affliction — though many of us joke about having it during the winter months — and it can make living in colder climates a challenge for many people. It’s thought that those who suffer from SAD may be particularly affected by the lack of light during the darker winter months — studies have found that when SAD sufferers are exposed to light, particularly during the morning hours, they tend to feel better.
SAD is a relatively uncommon condition, but even those who don’t suffer from it may experience drops in mood levels and well-being during the winter months or in colder climates. But we also might be overestimating how much the cold weather affects our mood: Some research has found that incidences of “wintertime blues” are widely exaggerated, and that most people are not affected by seasonal mood changes.
“It is clear from prior research that SAD exists,” Oregon State University psychologist David Kerr said in a press release. “But our research suggests that what we often think of as the winter blues does not affect people nearly as much as we may think.”
Extreme weather events contribute to mental health problems.
People living in high-risk areas for extreme weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and tsunamis may also be at high risk for physical and mental stress, not only because of the events themselves, but because of the recovery after the fact, The Weather Channel reported. According to a 2011 report from the National Wildlife Federation, global warming could have significant psychological and public mental health implications in the U.S. The NWF estimates that roughly 200 million Americans will be at an increased risk of psychological distress — including stress, anxiety-related disorders, substance abuse and suicides — because of climate-related issues.
“Many people prove remarkably resilient in the face of a disaster,” wrote the authors of a 2011 report from Australian think-tank The Climate Institute. “But people’s responses to disaster are complex. With the right support, many communities can pull together and pull through … However, for many, the dislocation and suffering caused by extreme events can linger for years, long into the ‘recovery.’”
Extreme weather can bring out our empathy.
From little things like leaving a bigger tip for the delivery guy when the weather is nasty outside to donating to homeless shelters during the coldest days of winter, the shared hardships of severe weather can serve to bring communities together and draw out people’s empathy.
And in the cases of more extreme weather events and other traumatic events, one of the sole upsides may be the communal spirit and acts of kindness that emerge in the event’s aftermath. Look no further than these heroes of Hurricane Sandy and stories of kindness in post-Katrina New Orleans.
“Although there’s a mentality that disasters provoke frenzied selfishness and brutal survival-of-the-fittest competition, the reality is that people coping with crises are actually quite altruistic,” TIME Healthland wrote.
Day-to-day weather does affect your mood (if it’s already a bad one).
If you’re in a good mood, chances are, bad weather won’t bring you down too much. But if you’re feeling crummy already, a cold, dreary day could easily make your mood go from bad to worse.
In a 2008 study published in the journal Emotion, researchers evaluated the personalities and moods of more than 1,200 adult men and women through daily questionnaires that were later cross-referenced with the local weather. They found that climate-related factors like temperature, sunlight, wind and precipitation had no notable impact on positive mood, but that temperature, wind and sunlight did have an effect on negative mood. Increased temperature had a mostly positive effect on negative mood, while increased wind and decreased sunlight had a mostly negative effect on negative mood, though these effects varied from one individual to another. Sunlight was also found to have an effect on how tired participants said they were. The results were somewhat inconclusive, but they do point towards the need for more future research into the mood-weather link.
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Info for this blog at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/14/climate-health_n_4568505.html
The Huffington Post | By Carolyn Gregoire