Weather had 'no effect' on mental health during lockdown

A man walks past a poster in the window of a Primark shop in Manchester, in the final week of a four

Lockdown did more to affect people's mental health than the weather, research has found. - Credit: PA

The weather did nothing to ease our mental health during Covid-19 - according to new research from the University of East Anglia and the University of Essex.

More people suffered mental health problems in the UK during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A new study published today shows that - contrary to popular belief - weather conditions had no impact.

Dr Ben Etheridge, from the Department of Economics, University of Essex, said: “We wanted to find out if adverse weather conditions during the first lockdown led to worse mental health and less outdoor recreational activity.”

The research team studied data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS), which launched a Covid-19 survey to examine the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and Google Covid-19 Mobility Reports to explore outdoor recreational activity at different stages of the pandemic.

They also studied location-specific weather conditions, including the temperature and amount of rainfall and sunshine, to see how the weather impacted the participants’ mental health and park use.

Dr Apostolos Davillas, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: "Just after the first lockdown was announced, park mobility reduced by about 50pc in London, compared to the pre-lockdown period.  

Today's electrical storm from mousehold heath overlooking the cathedral

Many people assume that weather plays a significant part in people's mental health. This research suggests it makes very little difference. - Credit: Terry Hammond/citizenside.com

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“But when we looked at weather data, we found that daily or weekly weather conditions did not exacerbate the mental health consequences of the pandemic.

“This surprised us because we expected to see that bad weather might exacerbate poor mental health, and sunny weather might lift people’s moods – particularly as it’s easier to get out of the house for exercise or to see other people outside in good weather.

“We did find links between park mobility and weather over the same period.

"In other words, people were going out to the parks more in good weather,” he added.

Weather, mental health and mobility during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is co-authored by Ashley Burdett (University of Essex), Apostolos Davillas (University of East Anglia) and Ben Etheridge (University of Essex) and published in Health Economics on June 15, 2021.