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Sunshine affects mental health more than any other weather factor

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Sunshine has always been associated with happiness and mood lifting effects.

Now, according to a recent Brigham Young University study, the amount of time between sunrise and sunset is the clear winner among other weather variables when it comes to improving your mental and emotional health.

In this unique study – that brought together a psychologist, physicist and statistician – the researchers explored how someone’s mood is linked to weather and associated factors such as sunshine, cloudy days, temperature, rain and pollution. The study found that people are more likely to report mental anguish during shorter days with less sunshine.

It is generally believed that hot sticky days, rainy days or days with thick pollution would make one feel more down and depressed. But the study came up with a startling finding. It found that more than any other factor, reduced sun hours could increase mental distress whereas soaking up in sun makes things all right.

The results highlighted that the duration of the daylight was more significant in influencing people’s moods versus the amount of sun rays being absorbed.

Mark Beecher, clinical professor and licensed psychologist in BYU Counseling and Psychological Services, said that these findings are indeed surprising.

“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,” said Becker in a press release.

Many studies have attempted to explore the link between the weather and its effect on one’s mood, but the results were not conclusive. For this study, many important reasons were taken in to account – making the research an enhancement to the previous ones.

The study concluded that public health and other entities should plan on effective strategies that can intervene and prevent emotional distress during periods when the sun time is less, such as in winter months.


Beecher ME, Eggett D, Erekson D, Rees LB, Bingham J, Bailey RJ, et al. Sunshine on my shoulders: Weather, pollution, and emotional distress. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2016.

Brigham Young University. Sunshine matters a lot to mental health; temperature, pollution, rain not so much: Psychologist, physicist and statistician collaborate on unique study. ScienceDaily.



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