A cold, drizzly day is enough to dampen anyone’s mood.
Now, scientists claim the impact of cold weather may be far worse than we realise.
According to a study of 3.5 billion social media posts, sub-zero temperatures are found to be more depressing to the public than the anniversary of 9/11.
They also make people as gloomy as the 2015 mass shootings in San Bernardino, in which 14 people were killed.
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According to a study of 3.5 billion social media posts, sub-zero temperatures are found to be more depressing for the public than the anniversary of 9/11
Analysis with the Linguistic Inquiry Word Count sentiment analysis tool looked at 3.5 billion social media posts and found sub-zero temperatures rival a mass shooting for levels of public sadness
However, cold temperatures aren’t seen as bad as the 2014 earthquake in the San Francisco bay or the catastrophic 2015 floods in South Carolina in 2015.
This is according to analysis of 2.4 billion Facebook posts and 1.1 billion tweets by Americans between the years 2009 and 2016.
The research was conducted by Dr Patrick Baylis, of the Vancouver School of Economics in Canada, and Dr Nick Obradovich, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Dr Baylis and Dr Obradovich used software to analyse the language of billions of social media posts.
They looked for the number of words expressing either positive emotion (such as ‘love’ or ‘nice’) or negative feelings (‘ugly’ or ‘nasty’).
Each post received a score for both positivity and negativity.
Undesirable weather made people almost as gloomy as the 2015 mass shootings in San Bernardino, when 14 people were killed. Similarly, a cloudy day made people 62 per cent as upset as when South Carolina was ravaged by floods throughout 2015 (pictured)
For example, the tweet ‘Last night I was able to rest my wine glass on my belly #madeit #blessed’, received a mark of 6.7 for positivity and zero for negativity
The tweets were then compared to weather conditions at that time through local records of temperature, precipitation, humidity, and cloud cover.
Dr Obradovich said: ‘We conducted the largest ever investigation into the relationship between meteorological conditions and the sentiment of human expressions.
‘We find that how we express ourselves is shaped by the weather outside.
‘Adverse weather conditions – hot and cold temperatures, precipitation, added humidity, and increased cloud cover – reduce the sentiment of human expressions across billions of social media posts drawn from millions of US residents.’
In particular, experts found that rain was associated with a more negatively expressed sentiment.
The study found positive expressions increase up to 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees F), but stops short and declines as the temperature goes over 30 degrees (86 degrees F).
Days with a humidity level of 80 per cent or higher were associated with negative expressions, as were days with a high amount of cloud cover.
The experts acknowledged their analysis was conducted on individuals who self-select into participation in social media – and results may not apply to the older generations who are less common users.
The researchers said that while the analysis tool used is ‘imperfect’, the study can act as a proxy for underlying human emotional states.
Dr Baylis said: ‘Given the ubiquity of our exposure to varying weather conditions, understanding the influence they may have on our emotional states is of high importance.
‘Understanding our emotional states is of high importance, here we provide a window into this relationship.’
The findings were published in the journal PLOS One.
WHAT IS SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER (SAD)?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder that links the mental well-being of a person with the seasonal weather conditions.
Sufferers of this condition experience normal mental health but can experience depressive episodes throughout winter.
SAD is sometimes known as ‘winter depression’ because the symptoms are more apparent and tend to be more severe during the winter.
- There are several symptoms of this disorder which can include:
- Constant low moods
- Increased irritability
- Feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
- Craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
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