Health and environments: Should men and women live together?

Apart from the obvious differences in interests and daily habits, many of us are aware that ‘he’ generally feels warmer and ‘she’ cooler, that men and women often disagree about whether a room is too hot or too cold, and that one of a couple often needs to compromise in some way. As well as gender, there is often quite a marked difference in preferred temperature in people of different ages and many of us will have suffered from feeling very hot in the homes of elderly relatives or friends.

I started writing this article today because I was feeling a bit depressed and wondered whether it was just because the sky was grey and it was drizzly, or whether it was because I was bored?  As it turns out, it may have been both but in my research on the weather and mood, I found a Japanese study from 2018[1] that thoroughly studied ‘health symptoms’ associated with the weather in males and female of different ages.

The study included 4548 Japanese people and their reactions to changes in temperature and humidity in the whole month of October 2013. The average age of the participants was 44.7 years. There were slightly more females than males and 60% were aged between 18 and 65 years. Dew point was used as the measure of humidity rather then relative humidity as this measures the temperature when the air is fully saturated with water vapor. The analysis considered and adjusted for differences in ongoing health in individuals so that the conclusions were not biased by such health issues.

I expect some readers will have different experiences to these, but the important point is that the weather really does affect our health and general feeling of well-being. It is not just someone’s imagination.

We, humans like average!

Both low and high temperatures and low and high humidity are associated with aches, pains, and mood changes but these differ between males and females and between age groups. If nothing else, the results give us a good explanation for why we often disagree about which temperatures and which levels of humidity are most comfortable? So, let’s consider the problems that can be influenced by the weather as well as gender-based similarities and differences.

Joint pains                         

Joint problems – especially arthritis respond to weather

Both men and women are likely to suffer from increased joint pain on days of either increased temperature and/or increased humidity. This occurs at ALL AGES but especially in those aged under 18!

Headaches

Headaches are less commonly associated with the weather although older people (65 and older) suffer from more headaches on colder days and women are more likely to experience headaches when the humidity is high.

Respiratory problems

Allergy or virus? Respiratory symptoms respond to the weather

The researchers asked participants whether they had ‘a runny nose’, ‘sneezes’, ‘coughs’, ‘sore throat’, ‘fever’ and/or ‘chill’ on any of the monitored days. There was considerable variation in the responses of the different groups, but overall – sneezing was quite strongly associated with lower humidity in both males and females aged over 18 years but with lower temperature in those aged under 18! Lower temperature was also likely to be associated with coughing but especially in those aged 65 and older.

‘Chill’ is a term that is often used to describe a feeling of being cold and unwell for a relatively short period of time. The authors of this paper found that chills were quite strongly associated with decreases in temperature or humidity in all but the youngest group of subjects. Similarly, lowered temperature and/or humidity were also strongly associated with contracting a common cold in all groups but especially in those aged under 18.

Muscle pain, Backpain, Itchiness and Eczema

Surprisingly to me, males and female of all ages are much more likely to suffer from muscle pain as the temperature rises. However, unlike joint pain, muscle pain is not affected by humidity. Back pain isn’t influenced by the weather in people aged under 65 but those aged 65 and older experience more back pain in both high temperatures and in high humidity.

Increased temperature is strongly associated with Eczema in those under 18 and over 65 in whom it is increased nearly 30 times. Surprisingly to me, Eczema is only increased by increasing humidity in those aged between 18 and 64 but not by temperature in this age group.

Psychological effects of weather: Anxiety and Depression

Both temperature and humidity affect mental health

In people over the age of 18, increases in temperature elevate anxiety by a factor of five and increased humidity also caused a similar effects on anxiety in those aged 65 and older. Unfortunately, the publication doesn’t show us the breakdown for males and females by age but the ‘men’ versus ‘women’ table for subjects at all ages, shows that men’s anxiety increases seven times with increasing humidity whereas women’s anxiety increases with increasing temperature! Even more inconveniently men’s risk of becoming depressed is increased more than ten times with increasing temperature whereas women are opposite – women are ten times as likely to become depressed when the temperature decreases.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

The differences between men and women’s responses to weather and temperature are REAL. He or she is not just being difficult! I’m not quite sure where you go from here in setting the temperature of the air conditioner but at least understanding the differences should help the discussion!


[1] Mihye Lee et al (2018) ‘Weather and Health Symptoms”. Intl J of Environmental Research & Public Health. 15: 1670-1685

Published by Dr Judy

I am a PhD Geneticist and have spent many decades working in research related to reproduction and cancer. Both are affected by lifestyle, especially ageing and so I am passionate about teaching people how to change their lifestyles to optimise their health.

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