January 18, 2021

Effects of pollution on mood

Effects of pollution on mood


China remains at the same level of happiness as in 1990. And that has regained some positions after a sharp decline in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Currently, it is ranked 79th on the list of 155 "happiest" countries, according to the World Happiness Report. In addition to inadequate public services, rising housing prices and concern for food security, air pollution is beginning to diminish the quality of life of its citizens. So much so that a study published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has revealed that this evil is also the cause of the low levels of happiness that is expanding among its urban inhabitants.

In an article published in the magazine 'Nature Human Behavior', the team of Siqi Zheng, professor of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, confirms that the higher the pollution level, the lower the happiness. It is true that research has already shown on more than one occasion that pollution is detrimental to health, cognitive performance, work output and educational outcomes, but its impact is much wider than expected. "Pollution also has an emotional cost," Zheng explained. "People are not happy and that means they can make irrational decisions."

According to the author, during the days with the highest contamination index, it has been shown that people are more likely to develop impulsive and dangerous behaviors than they could later regret. "For this reason, we wanted to analyze a broader range of effects of pollution in people's daily lives," he added. To this end, the managers examined real-time data from social networks to track how changes in daily levels of pollution affect behavior. "They provide a lot of data in many cities."

Thus, the team applied an automatic algorithm to analyze the 210 million geo-tagged tweets from China's largest microblogging platform, Sina Weibo. The messages cover the period March-November 2014. For each of them, the researchers examined the prevailing sentiment and calculated what is known as the "expressed happiness index": it oscillates between 0 and 100, in which 0 is a state very negative mood and 100 very positive. Once determined, they merged them with those of the climate. Thus, they found a negative correlation between the two. And, in addition, it was determined that women were more sensitive to pollution than men.

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