Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Sunlight could seriously affect your emotional health (and it counts even if its raining)

sun affect mood sad.jpg

We may all know that sun makes us feel happier, and most of us have probably heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which causes depression in sufferers during the year’s cold and rainy months.

However, a new study reveals that it’s not just the blazing sunshine of summer and the downpours of winter that affect our mood – it’s the daylight itself.

A team from Brigham Young University (BYU), Utah, analysed six years’ worth of archived environmental and mental health data (from 16,452 adults undergoing mental health treatment) and discovered that our mental and emotional health relies on the amount of time between sunrise and sunset – not whether it’s actually warm and dry.

Which means that it’s not the horrible weather or pollution making a difference to the way we feel, but the amount of daylight hours we’re exposed to.


Read more: Mood-enhancing tips and tricks to take the sting out of winter


Mark Beecher, clinical professor and licensed psychologist in BYU Counseling and Psychological Services, told the BYU website that it was a “surprising” outcome: “On a rainy day, or a more polluted day, people assume that they'd have more distress. But we didn't see that.

“We looked at solar irradiance, or the amount of sunlight that actually hits the ground. We tried to take into account cloudy days, rainy days, pollution […] but they washed out. The one thing that was really significant was the amount of time between sunrise and sunset.”

sad study sunlight affects emotions

Get out there, even if it's raining – you could be as happy as these guys

So even if it’s raining and blowing a gale outside, getting out in the light should keep your levels of “emotional distress” stable.

While previous research has delved into the weather’s effect on mood, the authors of this study say it’s more in-depth, having analysed 19 meteorological variables such as wind chill, rainfall, solar irradiance, wind speed and temperature, used data that provided weather updates down to the minute in the exact area the patients lived, and had access to records detailing several aspects of psychological distress (which they could then cross-match with the environmental information).


Read more: 10 proven ways to get on top of SAD 


As the BYU website points out, the source of the data means this applies to the clinical population at large, not just those officially diagnosed with SAD.

The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, came about after Lawrence Rees, a physics professor at BYU, had a casual chat with clinical professor Beecher about whether the recent weather had seen a spike in Beecher’s patients.

In his job, Rees had access to weather information, while Beecher had access to emotional health reports for the same area, so they combined their assets.

The paper’s conclusion reads: “Seasonal changes in sun time were found to best account for relationships between weather variables and variability in mental health distress. Increased mental health distress was found during periods of reduced sun time hours.”

All of which says to us: buy yourself a brolly and get the hell outside.

Images: iStock 

Related

pregnancy loss miscarriage ptsd.jpg

Study reveals 4 in 10 women experience PTSD symptoms after miscarriage

adele child free.jpg

Adele on ‘brave’ child-free women: “I felt pressurised into kids”

office stunt creativity.jpg

Revealed: the jobs that are most often linked to depression

Comments

More

Samantha Baines: “It’s time to leave our vaginas the hell alone”

The Call the Midwife star has her say on vaginal beauty treatments

by Kayleigh Dray
26 May 2017

Ramadan: The best places to break your fast in London

These London restaurants provide late night openings and special iftar menus

26 May 2017

10-year-old survivor’s letter to Ariana Grande is beyond beautiful

“I really hope you’re not too scared”

by Kayleigh Dray
26 May 2017

It’s official: this easy email hack is guaranteed to boost read rates

Make your emails stand out in your recipient's inbox with one simple trick

by Jasmine Andersson
26 May 2017

Fathers pay more attention to daughters than sons, new study shows

Dads are also "more emotionally engaged" with girls

by Anna Brech
26 May 2017

Men are totally devastated by this women-only Wonder Woman screening

Who knew they were such big fans of Diana Prince?

by Moya Crockett
26 May 2017

Dog breaks into studio to help reporter read the news

The internet is obsessed with this live news blooper (and for good reason)

by Kayleigh Dray
26 May 2017

“Get over yourself”: gymnast hits back at stranger who judged her arms

Alexandra Raisman responds to “rude and uncomfortable” incident

by Anna Brech
26 May 2017

Fighting for their rights: the heroic teens battling period taboos

"I wasn’t allowed to comb my hair, look in the mirror, attend school, read and write."

by Sarah Biddlecombe
25 May 2017

Twitter responds to terror threat level the only way it knows how

#BritishThreatLevels showcases the self-deprecating humour we Brits seem to love

by Amy Swales
25 May 2017