Data: Does More Daylight Make Us Happier?

6 March 2017

With daylight saving set to kick in at 1am on the 26th of March, we are about to welcome plenty more hours of sunlight to our lives in the United Kingdom. Will the extra daylight make us all happier? 7% of us suffer from seasonal affective disorder, which causes the most problems in the winter months. We have a look at the data behind the thinking.

Psychologist Professor Mark Beecher, of Brigham Young University, Utah, stressed that the extra daylight aids happiness, whether it is sunny or not is irrelevant.

“On a rainy day, or a more polluted day, people assume they would have more distress. But we did not 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.”

At the start of April, the son will rise in London at 06:35 and set at 19:34 – providing nearly 13 hours of daylight. Compare that to the shortest day (December 21st) in 2016, where London saw just 7 hours and 50 minutes of daylight. The sunrise took place at 08:03 and set at 15:54.

So even if the weather is bad this spring and summer, appreciate the extra daylight hours as those are what improve our moods, according to extensive research.

 Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) was first described and named by the South African psychiatrist Norman Rosenthal in 1984. He noticed that after his move from sub-tropical Johannesburg to seasonal New York he was less energetic and productive in the winter months. Often described as “winter blues”, Rosenthal found the condition was more prevalent in northern latitudes: virtually no-one in sunny Florida was diagnosed with the condition while almost one in 10 of the population further north in New Hampshire was said to suffer from SAD. – According to the BBC.

Less happy in the job?

Does staring out the window at sunshine decrease our motivation and happiness in the workplace? According to RES: “There is a statistically significant negative relationship between job satisfaction and sunshine. This suggests that people are less happy with their jobs on sunny days”. However it would take an additional 10 hours of sunshine to decrease job satisfaction by only 1% – a phenomenon that is extremely unlikely to occur. So employers, there is no need to wish for rain this summer!