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Unlocking the Weather-Wellness Connection

April 30, 2019 by Scott Sameroff0

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Many people associate weather conditions with their health and wellbeing. Perhaps you have family members claim to be able to sense changes in the weather because they feel a migraine coming on, friends who swear they can forecast rainfall better than the meteorologists due to increases in pain levels within their joints, or even co-workers who claim to be allergic to certain types of weather. Observations about the interactions between weather and health are not a modern phenomenon. People have been making them for almost 2,500 years—since the writings of Greek physician Hippocrates—and correlations between weather and wellness, if proven, are potentially valuable information for organizations and companies across the healthcare economy.

Today, researchers are working to validate observations about the weather and health, like those above, in novel ways. Biometeorology is a fast-evolving interdisciplinary science that studies the interactions between living organisms, including humans, and atmospheric conditions such as temperature, humidity and rainfall on a seasonal basis. This emerging discipline joins meteorologists with epidemiologists, biologists, computer scientists, and technologists to approach these persistent but difficult to verify connections in new and interesting ways.

Studying the impact of weather on human health and wellbeing is a challenging endeavor. Modern researchers are using data collection and technological tools that weren’t available in the past, including smartphones, cheap and plentiful sensors, complex computer simulations, and platforms that make aggregated data available to the general public as well as researchers.

Arthritis patients very frequently cite the weather as a factor in their condition. But joint pain, morning stiffness, fatigue and mood are very subjective factors, making it difficult to gather large-scale, standardized data about them. This is why the Cloudy With a Chance of Pain study conducted by the University of Manchester in conjunction with other arthritis and governmental organizations in the United Kingdom, is so fascinating. The researchers asked 13,000 participants, all of whom had long-term pain conditions, to record symptoms via a smartphone app each day. Using participant’s phone GPS signals and time stamps, researchers are evaluating correlations between participants’ symptoms and weather conditions. As if that weren’t cool enough, the researchers have made the aggregated data available to anyone online, via an analytics module on their website that allows people to see symptom levels by day and weather condition. You can bet that patients and biometeorologists alike will be paying attention when the University of Manchester researchers release their results this spring at https://www.cloudywithachanceofpaindata.com/

Mobile technology and cheap, ubiquitous sensors are enabling similar advances in the study of how weather conditions affect asthma and respiratory health. Companies including Propeller Health have developed sensors that attach to asthma inhalers and gather data on dosage, inhaler type, and time and location of usage, which can be synced with corresponding weather conditions. Once sufficient data is available, analysis may reveal how different weather conditions worsen or relieve asthma symptoms. The ultimate goal of such research is to reduce the risk of individual asthma attacks though proactive engagement and intervention with patients.

The flu is another illness impacted by the weather being studied in a novel manner. Researchers at leading institutions including University of Virginia’s BioComplexity Institute and Initiative are developing unique flu forecasting methods that use advanced computer simulations to assess flu risk at a highly granular level across the United States. The BioComplexity Institute’s innovative flu forecasting methodology uses a simulated population to model interactions that may lead to the spread of flu. Their model factors in census population data, mobility data (including commuter data and airline travel data), and historical vaccine coverage and efficacy data. When combined with AccuWeather’s weather forecasting expertise and data, these AccuWeather derived localized flu forecasts provide powerful insights at the US county level. To date, the researchers have seen evidence that low humidity and low temperatures allow the flu virus to survive longer, which promotes its transmission. However, more people stay inside during cold and/or inclement weather, which suggests a reduced risk of flu transmission—unless you happen to be stuck inside within someone who is already suffering from the flu.

AccuWeather provides historical, current and forecasted weather data and weather data insights to leading brands, agencies, retailers, medical device companies, analytics firms, and research institutes to help them understand important connections between the weather and wellness. This includes providing weather data and insights to:

  • Research institutes and medical device companies, which want to understand how weather impacts the development and spread of illness and disease;
  • Brands, agencies and retailers, which want to understand how weather influences the demand for products such as cold medicine, tissues and orange juice;
  • Distributors of critical healthcare goods, which need to anticipate logistical disruptions caused by weather events such as snow, hurricanes, and flooding; and
  • Advertisers, which want to boost awareness of products and services at contextually relevant moments to consumers, either on AccuWeather’s digital platforms or their own, e.g, showing ads for hand sanitizer and throat lozenges to consumers located in areas with higher than average flu risk.

Every day, researchers are enhancing our understanding of how weather impacts our health and wellbeing. AccuWeather is proud to work with companies across the entire health care spectrum to ensure that the world’s most accurate weather data can be used to make peoples’ lives better, whether it’s helping a manufacturer develop more effective medical devices or helping advertisers reach AccuWeather users with products and services suited to the health issues associated with the weather they’re experiencing.


About AccuWeather: AccuWeather is the largest and fasted-growing weather media company and global leader in weather-related date, business and predictive analytics.


Disclaimer: AccuWeather is not affiliated in any way with the University of Manchester, Cohero or Propeller Health.  The views expressed by AccuWeather are its own and the studies referenced in this article are solely offered as examples of how weather and wellness are being researched; AccuWeather in no way endorses the outcome of any study.


Scott Sameroff

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