Are people happier in the summer?
If you're staring into a computer screen for 10 hours a day, you may not feel that the changing of the seasons has much of an impact on your mood. However, with the coming of summer you're likely to tear yourself away from the desk for a holiday.
A paper in The International Journal of Tourism Research found that people did report high levels of positive mood for most of their holidays. However, during the first 10pc of their holiday they did not report high levels of positive mood.
The authors referred to this first 10pc of the holiday as the "travel phase". So you may not enjoy the trip to your destination. But six months later, when winter rolls around, your memory may be selective. You recall the long sunny hours on the beach but not the miserable bus journey.
Besides holidays, what about the fact that the days are longer during the summer? An ingenious paper published in Science used posts from Twitter to examine thousands of people's reported mood over the changing seasons.
The research found that overall length of daylight didn't make a difference in terms of people's reported positive mood. However, changes in daylight length did. So the approach of mid-summer seems to increase positive feelings.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that hits during particular times of year, is more likely to strike during the winter months.
Light treatment, which involves exposure to bright light, can be used to fight the "winter blues". A recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry looked at people with seasonal affective disorder pre- and post-light therapy (two weeks of twice daily 45-minute light sessions). What's interesting is they also compared this to mood the following summer. The findings suggest that people had the best mood overall during the summer months.
So it seems the glow of your desktop or smartphone is no substitute for the summer sun!
Andrew P. Allen is a psychological researcher with the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre and Department of Psychiatry, UCC. You can read his blog at http://andrewspsychologyarchive.blogspot.ie/