Are People in Warm Weather Climates Happier?
You can tell by the look on their faces. Walk outside anywhere in New York City this morning. For the first time in months, it’s a genuinely nice day. It’s sunny. Relatively warm. And since it’s April 26, it doesn’t feel like Lucy’s about to yank away the football – it should more or less be like this for the next few months. What does that produce on the streets? More smiles. Fewer scowls. Happy New Yorkers.
Pretty much everyone agrees that nice weather improves your mood. So wouldn’t we just be happier if we lived somewhere that always has nice weather? Say you live in San Diego and 72 and sunny is the norm. Isn’t enjoying that twelve months out of the year better than four or five months? There’s a reason the title for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is intentionally ironic – the characters’ lives are pretty grim. In their world, it’s never sunny.
I know what you’re thinking: people on the streets of Manhattan today are really happy because it’s been such a long, miserable winter so they genuinely appreciate a nice day. That’s true. Our gratefulness is definitely higher than our friends in San Diego are probably feeling this morning and our net happiness because of the weather is probably a little higher. But now do that math for 365 days a year. We may enjoy the good weather days more, but only because we endure so many bad ones too. If my weather-related happiness is a 3 from say November to April and an 8 from May to October, that’s an average of 5.5. I’m pretty sure the mean weather-related happiness in San Diego is a lot higher than 5.5.
Of course San Diegoans are used to it (note: the internet does not have consensus on what to call people who live in San Diego). Of course they take it for granted – it’s easy to get used to nice things. But let’s say you have the choice of a bad mattress or a good one. You quickly get used to the good one and having it may not make you consciously happy, but you’re still probably getting a better night’s sleep.
Sure, there are lots of factors in choosing where to live (and I’m not leaving New York anytime soon). But pretending that the winters here aren’t miserable and that our happiness isn’t greater for one six month bloc than for another is just denying reality. There’s no way the smiles we’re seeing today aren’t more abundant in cities where the weather is consistently good. Is that alone enough reason to live somewhere? Probably not. But as we decide where to live, how to spend our time and what opportunities to pursue, it’d be foolish to pretend it doesn’t matter.