Sunshine matters more to well-being than temperature, pollution, rain, or climate change

From BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY and the “temperature is not the problem” department comes this study that says pretty much what we intrinsically know about ourselves, and what climate proponents try to convince us of with stories like this one:


Sunshine matters a lot to mental health; temperature, pollution, rain not so much

BYU psychologist, physicist and statistician collaborate on unique study

Sunshine matters. A lot. The idea isn’t exactly new, but according to a recent BYU study, when it comes to your mental and emotional health, the amount of time between sunrise and sunset is the weather variable that matters most.

Your day might be filled with irritatingly hot temperatures, thick air pollution and maybe even pockets of rainclouds, but that won’t necessarily get you down. If you’re able to soak up enough sun, your level of emotional distress should remain stable. Take away sun time, though, and your distress can spike. This applies to the clinical population at large, not just those diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

“That’s one of the surprising pieces of our research,” said Mark Beecher, clinical professor and licensed psychologist in BYU Counseling and Psychological Services. “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.”Therapists should be aware that winter months will be a time of high demand for their services. With fewer sun time hours, clients will be particularly vulnerable to emotional distress. Preventative measures should be implemented on a case-by-case basis.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, started with a casual conversation that piqued Beecher’s professional curiosity.

“Mark and I have been friends and neighbors for years, and we often take the bus together,” said Lawrence Rees, a physics professor at BYU. “And of course you often talk about mundane things, like how are classes going? How has the semester been? How ’bout this weather? So one day it was kind of stormy, and I asked Mark if he sees more clients on these days. He said he’s not sure, it’s kind of an open question. It’s hard to get accurate data.”

A lightbulb went off in Rees’ head. As a physics professor, Rees had access to weather data in the Provo area. As a psychologist, Beecher had access to emotional health data for clients living in Provo.

“We realized that we had access to a nice set of data that not a lot of people have access to,” Beecher said. “So Rees said, ‘Well, I’ve got weather data,’ and I’m like, ‘I’ve got clinical data. Let’s combine the pair!’ Wonder Twin powers activate, you know?”

The duo then brought in BYU statistics professor Dennis Eggett, who developed the plan for analyzing the data and performed all of the statistical analyses on the project.

Several studies have attempted to look at the weather’s effect on mood with mixed results. Beecher cited four reasons why this study is an improvement on previous research:

  • The study analyzed several meteorological variables such as wind chill, rainfall, solar irradiance, wind speed, temperature and more.
  • The weather data could be analyzed down to the minute in the exact area where the clients lived.
  • The study focused on a clinical population instead of a general population.
  • The study used a mental health treatment outcome measure to examine several aspects of psychological distress, rather than relying on suicide attempts or online diaries.
  • The weather data came from BYU’s Physics and Astronomy Weather Station, and the pollution data came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Mental and emotional health data came from BYU’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center.

The three BYU professors were just the beginning of the collaboration on this research. There are 10 other authors listed on the study, including Davey Erekson, Jennie Bingham, Jared Klundt, Russell Bailey, Clark Ripplinger, Jessica Kirchhoefer, Robert Gibson, Derek Griner, Jonathan Cox and RD Boardman. Both Ripplinger and Kirchhoefer are currently doctoral students in BYU’s counseling psychology program.


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November 3, 2016 1:32 pm

Wonderful article!!!

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
Reply to  kelleysdiy
November 4, 2016 1:18 am

As long as we don’t separate the words “climate change” with “global warming”, the confusion will persists and poor quality so called peer-reviewed papers will flood the scientific journals.
Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

Reply to  Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
November 4, 2016 8:49 am

I agree…which is why I loved your article!

John Boles
November 3, 2016 1:33 pm

Very subjective study, will tend to show the bias of the studier.

Reply to  John Boles
November 3, 2016 2:06 pm

Very subjective indeed ! That’s why they make those hats with lights on them to help people with depression in polar regions. They even have a name for it. SAD, or SADS, seasonal affected depression syndrome. Of course nothing beats a trip to the Caribbean or to Hawaii in the winter time. Still waiting on my climate refugee status from cold dark climate. If only the IPCC would send me there at their expense, think of all the co2 I won’t produce this winter !

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  John Boles
November 4, 2016 5:04 am

Sounds to me more like ….. “a very ‘client’ subjective study”.
How about those “deep mine” coal miners that spend about 2/3 of their life in the dark? 1/3 sleeping, 1/3 in the coal mine and less than the remaining 1/3 in the solar irradiance.
Likewise, so does all the “sandhogs”.
So, curious minds would like to know what percentage of the “deep mine” coal miners and/or the “sandhogs” that are afflicted with SAD, or SADS, or that dastardly debilitating problem of “lackalumens”?

Reply to  Samuel C Cogar
November 4, 2016 9:36 am

There’s also those who work the night shift or rotating shifts, who sleep during the day and work when it’s dark. Do they suffer more SAD than others?

Reply to  Samuel C Cogar
November 4, 2016 3:44 pm

There is a medical term for that as well, Shift Work Disorder.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  Samuel C Cogar
November 5, 2016 4:00 am

HA, just a quick as one can think up a new “complaint” ….. those “wackoologsts” will think up an important sounding “Disorder” name for it …… so that they can charge$$ Health Providers for treatment of it ….. and Lawyers can sue for damages for injuries suffered by their clients.

November 3, 2016 1:36 pm

If only the length of the day matters, there is no amount of climate change that will effect that. Unless of course a study is published that shows how climate change affects planetary mechanics.

Mary Catherine
Reply to  rocketscientist
November 4, 2016 3:08 pm

“Unless of course a study is published that shows how climate change affects planetary mechanics.” I can’t wait to see that study!

November 3, 2016 1:55 pm

Someone’s paying for this crap?

Bryan A
Reply to  HotScot
November 3, 2016 2:21 pm

your tax dollars at work…you are paying for it

Reply to  Bryan A
November 3, 2016 3:09 pm

BYU is a private University. I’m sure some of our tax dollars go there, but not nearly as much as many other Universities.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Bryan A
November 4, 2016 5:25 am

And they have a great motto.

November 3, 2016 2:09 pm

There might be a genetic factor. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) apparently is more common in Southerners living in the North than in the native Northerners.

Gerry, England
Reply to  vukcevic
November 4, 2016 3:28 am

I can understand how it must take some adaption to going through periods of no sun at all. And even no darkness must play havoc with your body clock.

November 3, 2016 2:19 pm

The study is a rediscovery of the bleedin’ obvious. If you live in a place that has say, 300 days of rain or at least cloud, then yes you do react favorably to a bit of sunshine. Conversely unmitigated sunshine will get to you. Here in the “dry tropics” this morning cheered me up a bit; overcast, and the ground is slightly damp.

Reply to  Martin Clark
November 3, 2016 2:22 pm

I live in the desert at 32 degees north – the sunshine is intense.
On the few dark days, I tend to feel low energy.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  Martin Clark
November 3, 2016 2:48 pm

One guy was a physicist, so he had access to weather records. Pretty slim payoff for getting that degree!

Bryan A
November 3, 2016 2:20 pm

So did they also factor in the Media announcements of potential Gloom and Doom forecasted by AGW reports?
Propheteers of gloom and doom would have an additional negative effect on the mental state of anyone susceptible to depression or seasonal affective disorder. If you are already down, articles stating that the world is coming to an end will only serve to exacerbate their problems

November 3, 2016 2:21 pm

Well, the mood is largely determined by circadian rhythm.
And circadian rhythm is influenced by melatonin production in pineal glands which respond to sunshine.
When I have friends that suffer depression or anxiety, I recommend that they rise with the sun and spend a few minutes having coffee in direct morning sunlight for this reason.
The body has many responses designed for highs during the day and lows at night.
When people stay up all night and sleep during the day, they are fighting their own hormones and it’s not surprising they feel bad.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  Turbulent Eddie
November 4, 2016 5:33 am

That “direct morning sunlight” has nothing whatsoever to do with the “relieving” of the effect of depression or anxiety “attacks” that your friends oftentimes suffer from.
In actuality, it is their act of “having a cup of coffee in direct morning sunlight” …. that gets their subconscious mind off of the repetitive re-hashing of the “emotional problem” that is the root cause of their per se, depression or anxiety “attacks”.
Like all “anti-depression” prescription medications, the aforesaid “coffee and sunlight” are nothing more than a “placebo” that masks the effects of “depression and/or anxiety”.

Reply to  Samuel C Cogar
November 4, 2016 3:56 pm

If that were true, all antidepressants would immediately work for all people who were prescribed them. Just because you apparently have been fortunate enough to not suffer from so-called “emotional problems” does not mean that they do not exist or that other people are pretending.
Maybe you should try having some compassion for your fellow man.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  Samuel C Cogar
November 5, 2016 3:42 am

Have you ever been, ……. or do you know anyone that has been ……. or have you ever heard of someone that was …… completely cured of your/their diagnosed “depression” within 12 or 24 hours after they began ingesting the antidepressant prescription medication prescribed by their health provider (doctor)?
Of course you haven’t. And the reason you haven’t is the simple fact that “antidepressant prescription medications” do nothing more than a per se “masking” of the abnormal mental effects that is referred to as “depression”.
Iffen one is suffering a bad bout of ”depression” then they can “cure it” if they “whap” themselves on their left foot with a big hammer and they will immediately forget about whatever it was that was causing their “depression” ….. and start thinking about “why” their left foot is hurting so damn much.
Depression is a “self-nurtured” problem ……. and it has to be “self-un-nurtured” or “self-re-nurtured” in order to per se “permanently cure it”.

Paul Penrose
November 3, 2016 2:38 pm

“Wonder Twin powers activate, you know.”
Just NO. I almost barfed when I read that. Worst. Super. Heroes. Ever.

November 3, 2016 2:43 pm

So one day it was kind of stormy, and I asked Mark if he sees more clients on these days. The real question should be ‘do more people make appointments vs weather’. The bulk of their daily clients made appointments in advance of the weather, and I’ll bet the appointment wasn’t regarding concern over impending weather.

November 3, 2016 2:45 pm

In Scandinavia, suicide rates are noticeably higher in the autumn (fall) as the days get shorter. Not sure if this continues after the turn of the year as although the days short, they are getting longer. Not seen any stats, but my understanding is that this is the basis for the treatment of SAD with daylight-emulating lights.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  Rob
November 3, 2016 3:02 pm

Perhaps they get coverage of the U.S. elections.

November 3, 2016 2:59 pm

Getting enough sunshine is a real issue for me, I’m one of those people whose mood is affected by ambient light – main reason I live on the edge of the tropics.

Bloke down the pub
November 3, 2016 3:01 pm

It is accepted by most physicians that going for a walk, especially in a natural environment, releases endorphins that are as good, if not better than prescription drugs at fighting depression. How much of this effect is due to the sunshine I don’t know.

James Francisco
November 3, 2016 3:25 pm

I finally noticed that sunshine was a factor in my case when I moved from a small dark apt to a larger more sunlit apt. I immediately felt better. I was going through a divorce at the time so that is why I was down at the time so anything that helped was great.

John in Oz
November 3, 2016 3:51 pm

Do submarines carry psychologists in order to counter the depression the sailors must feel?
When I was in the Navy, even on surface ships, we might not venture onto the upper decks for several days at a time and we were not looking for deep and meaningful conversations with the medical staff.

November 3, 2016 4:18 pm

I am a cardiac patient with a totally blocked major artery and, at last count, 22 stents placed. I can tell you all that sunshine – not hours of daylight – is what makes it for me. Not temperature, not cloud cover, not hours of daylight. The sun shining out of a blue sky makes me feel much better physically than anything else. Makes me actually feel like going for walks or doing other physical activities. Cloudy out, long days? blah. I can have angina symptoms on a cloudy day at 80F yet feel fine and active at 60F on a Sunny day. This research may be on to something but not as stated in this article.

November 3, 2016 4:27 pm

My mother was from Shetland, not known for its toasty sunshine. She would lie in the sun, soaking it up, whenever she got the chance. This applied at all latitudes from 26 to 60 degrees north.

November 3, 2016 4:48 pm

..” and what climate proponents try to convince us of with stories like this one:”
Maybe you should reread the first paragraph ?

November 3, 2016 5:25 pm

Oh all right.. since I have to….
I’m heading off down the beach.
Not much surf today though 🙁—dixon-park

November 3, 2016 7:02 pm

“The duo then brought in BYU statistics professor Dennis Eggett, who developed the plan for analyzing the data and performed all of the statistical analyses on the project.”
Bingo! An external statistician’s eye for the data, and, applying the correct statistics to the appropriate data set gave…an understandable/believable outcome.
“Its the sun stupid!”

November 3, 2016 7:49 pm

Well, that explains why the British went out and took over the warm, sunny countries of the world. (Canada was a bit of a mistake. Turned right too soon.)

November 3, 2016 8:21 pm

Of course climate has an effect on mental health. The thousands of the poorly conducted studies we hear about everyday are making me depressed.

November 3, 2016 8:22 pm

By an eminent scientist:
Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Leveut
November 3, 2016 10:13 pm

Sunshine go away today
I don’t feel much like dancing
Some man’s gone, he’s tried to run my life …
[Jonathan Edwards]

Reply to  Leveut
November 4, 2016 9:38 am

Only if you’re a John Denver fan.

Reply to  Leveut
November 4, 2016 10:02 am

Song writers discovered this effect way before these Wonder Twins.
Sunny, yesterday my life was filled with rain.
Sunny, you smiled at me and really eased the pain.
The dark days are gone, and the bright days are here
My sunny one shines so sincere, Sunny one so true, I love you.
-Bobby Hebb

November 3, 2016 8:51 pm

Obviously nuclear radiation is good for you.

Reply to  Leo Smith
November 3, 2016 9:51 pm

If you want to change your DNA structure, it’s great. It’s also good for killing cancer cells as well as health ones. The odds are, with enough people a more superior being with new and enhanced abilities might arise. If evolution is true, there is no reason to believe that humans as they exist, are the final product. It’s an ongoing work in progress.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Leo Smith
November 3, 2016 11:45 pm

It’s called radiation hormesis.
There is some support in epidemiology for this phenomenon.

November 3, 2016 11:23 pm

“Evolution” is simply a Victorian word that covers the fact that what follows may not be precisely determined by what preceded; children in general are not clones of the parents in any population of ANY species. “Evolution” as in “the theory of…” addresses not “evolution” but that action of selective events on on that variability. You can download Darwin’s “Origin of Species” and run it through a textual analysis and will discover that Darwin never used the phrase “theory of evolution.” His “theory” was that “natural selection” could have the same effect on breeding populations that selective breeding by agriculturalists was known for centuries to have. Non-“evolutionary” change in populations is due to genetic drift rather than selection (so, in fact it really is “evolution” in the original since). That is, random changes accumulate. A population can change without “evolving” in the contemporary sense, which implies causally (selectively) biased changes.

Joel O’Bryan
November 3, 2016 11:41 pm

I love rainy, cloudy days. We have so few inTucson, Arizona. Day after day of sunshine gets old.

The Old Man
November 4, 2016 12:38 am

After living and working in the High Arctic for several decades, I nod in agreement bigtime noting that the endless nights, Northern Lights and the winter moon made poor substitutes for sunshine.

Patrick MJD
November 4, 2016 2:36 am

I think many of these studies are written by an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters and then the output is read by a human who adds “CO2 caused this”. Job, done, tick, grant is in the mail.

Bruce Cobb
November 4, 2016 5:59 am

Hmmm, no word about vitamin D, “the sunshine vitamin”? In northern climes especially, vitamin D can be deficient in the winter months, due to both less time (if any) spent outdoors with any skin exposed, as well as fewer hours of daylight, and a lower sun angle. Now, being deficient in D is not good for a number of reasons, but one of them does seem to be susceptibility to depression. In any case, as a preventive measure, I take a 5,000 IU vitamin D & K2 (1100 mcg) once a week, starting in November and into April.

Rod Everson
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
November 4, 2016 6:40 am

Diet is a very poor source of vitamin D3. We get it primarily from direct exposure to sunlight. And many health problems can be related to a deficiency in D3, as you indicated.
Therefore, it seems reasonable that we would react favorably even to the very presence of sunshine. There could well be a body mechanism that encourages us to feel better and get out and enjoy the sun on days when it’s out. That is, there could be a release of chemicals in the body triggered by the sight/feel of a sunny day that encourages us to actually get out into the direct sunlight so our skin can manufacture the essential vitamin D3.
Those who feel better in a warm sunny room, for example, are getting no additional D3, but they probably feel more favorable about getting out of their houses and into the sunshine.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Rod Everson
November 4, 2016 8:59 am

Right, forgot to mention that it was D3, the most bioavailable form. As far as a psychological component to sunshine, I don’t doubt that, however there is plenty of evidence that the supplemental form is beneficial in all aspects, including prevention of SAD, when exposure to sunlight is limited or non-existent.

John M. Ware
November 4, 2016 6:10 am

I thought the article made excellent sense and that the authors took a scientific approach and adopted a scientific method. I would have liked to see some of the statistics from which the conclusions were drawn, but I expect that the statistics are available to those who read the entire study. I saw no reference to “climate change,” so I was willing to believe that the article was relatively unadulterated by nefarious influence.

November 4, 2016 8:43 am

Climate change is making links to articles irrelevant. How did two guys in Utah get to be experts on clmate change or anything? Speaking of irrelevant one caption to a photo says “The British medical journal Lancet estimated in June that we are four times more likely to be exposed to extreme rainfall later this century compared to 1990 levels.” When did doctors become weather modelers?

Reply to  Douglas Kubler
November 4, 2016 9:41 am

Isn’t “extreme rainfall” brief heavy rain, not day after day of rain?

November 4, 2016 11:58 am

I’ve said it before and no apologies for repeating myself. When all contributors and commentators say “ever changing climate” as opposed to “climate change” we
will effect a change away from any hint of AGW and political claptrap.

November 4, 2016 12:04 pm

Sinusoids are everywhere.

November 4, 2016 1:21 pm

“Climate change” damages mental health not so much as an environmental phenomenon but as a dogma.

Smart Rock
November 4, 2016 4:23 pm

Nice article, probably confirming what many of us who spent time in the far north or working in mines, already know or at least suspect.
What really gets me upset is that the words “climate change” or “global warming” or even “climate” don’t appear in the all. Not once. They are only in the headline and subtitle.
This is a blatant example of a news (for want of a better word) paper taking an article that says absolutely nothing about any climate issues and trying to turn it into support for alarmism. Of course it’s not surprising, it just confirms my low opinion of most journalists, editors and publishers.

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