Weather has a profound effect on human health and well-being. People generally perform at their best when they are not under stress from the surroundings, and that includes the weather.
People generally feel low at times of summer heat or winter cold, and high during the pleasant spring climate.
EFFECT OF THE HEAT
Many people find it difficult to work when the climate is hot and humid. This is because of the high moisture content during hot periods that lessen the body’s ability to evaporate perspiration and induce heat stress. People affected by heat stress tend to become lethargic, procrastinate, react late, encounter sleeplessness, and become irritated easily. A research conducted by Persinger in 1975 found significant negative relationships between relative humidity and “mood scores”, which represent a measure of happiness. When the relative humidity is high, the chance for heat stress is great and lesser the chances of people being happy. Research has also found out that heat wave tends to increase crime and violence.
Another factor affecting human mental activity is atmospheric pressure. Researchers in the Ukraine have found that slight low-frequency fluctuations in atmospheric pressure can influence human mental activity, causing significant changes in attention and short-term memory functions. This could be reason people find it hard to concentrate at work or remember things.
A number of studies have also found relationships between migraine attacks and rapid changes in atmospheric pressure. A study conducted by Cull in 1981 found fewer occurrences of migraine attacks when atmospheric pressure was low. Solar radiation triggers migraine attacks, and low pressure is associated with a decrease in sunshine. However, a Canadian Climate Center study in 1981 found that migraines were most likely to occur on days with falling pressure, rising humidity, high winds, and rapid temperature fluctuations.
A study by Rosen in 1979 also relates atmospheric pressure changes to human well-being. He notes that rapid pressure fluctuations may penetrate buildings and propagate wave energy from their source like ripples in a pond, and that humans are sensitive to such changes.
If extreme heat from the sun can cause a debilitating effect on people’s mental health, lack of sufficient heat can also cause the same effect.
The hypothalamus in the human brain controls the body’s main functions like mood, activity, sleep, temperature, appetite, and sex drive. This hypothalamus is stimulated when natural light passes through the retinas in the eye. People feel good when sun shines because sufficient light passes through the retina and the functions controlled by the hypothalamus perform optimally. However, the reduction of solar radiation by cloud cover or during winter means lesser amount of sunlight passing through the retina, and consequently the hypothalamus stimulated to a lesser extent. This cause the functions controlled by the hypothalamus to slow down, and when this happens, people feel depression, tired and drowsiness, all of which leads to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or “winter blues” as it is popularly called. People affected with S.A.D. sleep more hours, yet wake up tired and depressed. They also tend to over-eat and be aggressive.
Research conducted by Wolfe in 1981 notes that the sun’s rays cause chemical changes in neurotransmitter or hormone synthesis in the brain, perhaps stimulating production of the hormone epinephrine, which stimulates the mind and body. Conversely, very low light intensities are often associated with states of relaxation, tiredness, and sleepiness.
EFFECT OF THE WIND
The popular saying “The wind is driving me crazy” is not without any basis. A persistent or noisy wind can lead to an increase in tiredness and irritability, or even a sudden decrease in mood. Some school teachers have noticed that children tend to be more irritable and that there are more playground upsets when it is windy.
Seasonal winds such as the fohn in the Alps, Mistral in southern France, Chinooks in western Canada and the USA and the Sharav in the Middle East are known as “Ill winds” in these places as people tend to suffer from feelings of anxiety, stress, depression and sleepless nights when such winds blow. Studies have linked these winds to an increase in traffic accidents, crime and suicide rates. A survey by Germany’s Allensbach Institute found that a third of their respondents said that fohn-like weather affected their health.
Research on why these winds cause such extreme effects is still not conclusive. A possible reason could be the electrical charge of the air. When people are exposed to negatively charged air they report feeling positive and vice versa. “Ill winds”, which are warm and cause rapid rise of temperature are positively charged.
If the air feels good after a heavy downpour, that is because the rain has washed away the positive eons and created negative eons.
The charge or eons of the air are the reason why people build airtight homes and offices. Heating and air-conditioning depletes negative ions, leaving the positive ones to re-circulate and reduce our moods.