If you neutralize the risks of sunburn and skin cancer with the doctor-recommended lather of SPF, few things contribute more profoundly to human happiness than access to direct sunlight. The latest CivicScience data makes that case as clear as a clear-blue sky.
By analyzing a recent survey of U.S. adults about their time spent in direct sunlight and thousands of other attributes, CivicScience found a number of significant correlations that reinforce the positive impact of being outdoors. Most notably, overall happiness increased dramatically with higher levels of sunlight access.
First, the top-line results:
When over 2,000 U.S. adults were asked whether they get more or less sunlight than most people they know, 10% answered “much more,” 15% “somewhat more,” 23% “somewhat less,” 17% “much less,” and 28% “about the same.” 7% of respondents were “not sure.”
A Not-So-Sunny Disposition
When simplified, we see that 25% of U.S. adults believe they get more sunlight than their peers; 40% believe they get less. Mathematically, that can’t be true. One implication of a self-reported question format like this is that it allows CivicScience to discover latent biases among the respondents.
The actual ratio of people who receive more or less sunlight should follow a bell curve, with equal numbers falling on either side of “about the same.” What these results reveal is that a meaningful number of respondents are biased in the direction of believing that others get more sunlight than they do. That finding, in and of itself, is, well, enlightening.
Sunshine and Happiness
It may come as no shock that higher levels of sunlight in someone’s life correlate closely with higher levels of happiness. But the magnitude of that correlation may surprise you.
In the chart above, respondents who answered “not sure” were removed from the sample and the “more” and “less” answer choices were combined, respectively, to simplify the chart. CivicScience then identified the respondents in the company’s database who had also recently answered a question about their current level of happiness.
The relationship between the two questions is stark. People who believe they receive more sunlight than their peers are twice as likely than average and nearly 3.5 times as likely as those who get less sunlight to consider themselves “Very Happy.”
Put differently, 74% of people who get more sunlight than their peers describe themselves as “Happy” or better. Only 50% of people who get less sunlight than their peers can say the same.
Other Sunny Correlations
When analyzed against thousands of other questions in the CivicScience database, a number of obvious and not-so-obvious relationship emerged. Here’s a perhaps-intriguing one:
As we can see, people who get “much more” sunlight are significantly more likely to have an iPhone than a smartphone from another manufacturer. Those who get less sunlight are more likely to own a Samsung or other manufacturer’s smartphone.
Some other notable findings:
– Men are much more likely than women to report getting more sunlight;
-People making over $150k in household income were nearly twice as likely to get more sunlight than others;
-Parents and those living in rural areas report greater exposure to sunlight than non-parents and those in urban areas;
-People who get LESS sunlight are more than twice as likely to use Google Maps once a month or more – presumably because they spend more time in the car;
-People who get MORE sunlight are 74% more likely than others to drink wine twice a week or more;
-People who get LESS sunlight are 64% more likely to say they had previously been diagnosed with obesity by a medical professional
Keeping Up with the Sun-Drenched Joneses
Finally, one of the more intriguing discoveries in the CivicScience database was the relationship between access to sunlight and Facebook usage. Regular Facebook users were nearly 20% LESS likely than non-users to report getting more sunlight than their peers. Is this simply because those Facebook users are spending more time in front of a screen? Or is it because they’re comparing themselves to a group of friends who post more pictures of themselves outdoors?