Some Like It Mild and Not Too Wet: The Influence of Weather on Subjective Well-Being

Abstract

More and more economists and politicians are advocating the use of comprehensive measures of well-being, on top of the usual national accounting measures, to assess the welfare of populations. Researchers using subjective well-being data should be aware of the potential biasing effects of the weather on their estimates. In this paper, the responsiveness of well-being to climate and transitory weather conditions is investigated by analyzing subjective well-being data collected in the Princeton Affect and Time Survey. General satisfaction questions about life in general, life at home, health and one’s job, as well as questions concerning feelings intensities during specific episodes are studied. Women are much more responsive than men to the weather, and life satisfaction decreases with the amount of rain on the day of the interview. Low temperatures increase happiness and reduce tiredness and stress, raising net affect, and high temperatures reduce happiness, consistent with the fact that the survey was conducted in the summer. Methods to reduce the possible biases are suggested in the conclusion.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Neuroscientists studying the brain have found that various neurotransmitters (dopamine, noradrenaline, endorphins) activate “pleasure centers,” and have asked what triggers the release of those neurotransmitters. Social contacts with friends, sexual activity, success, physical activity, eating and drinking, reading, listening to music and enjoying nature were all identified as causes of joy (Argyle and Martin 1991).

  2. 2.

    Summary statistics of the PATS sample are presented in an online appendix available as supplemental material.

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Acknowledgments

Funding from SSHRC and FQRSC is greatly acknowledged. I would like to thank Alan Krueger for making the data available and the project possible and Rod Hill for helpful comments. Yann Fortin provided excellent research assistance. All remaining errors are my own.

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Correspondence to Marie Connolly.

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Connolly, M. Some Like It Mild and Not Too Wet: The Influence of Weather on Subjective Well-Being. J Happiness Stud 14, 457–473 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9338-2

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Keywords

  • Subjective well-being
  • Life satisfaction
  • Happiness
  • Weather
  • Temperature
  • Precipitation