Why the rain makes you crave junk food

14th January 2021 | Eativity editors

Ever found yourself craving sweet, salty or fatty food when it’s grey and rainy outside? A UNSW study has found that there’s a link between lousy weather conditions and people’s consumption habits – a finding that could lead to enormous windfalls for marketers and business managers… and make consumers more vulnerable to exploitation.

Bad weather can certainly make you feel blue. But it can also compel you to seek out ways to make yourself feel happier – and the faster the better. Researchers from UNSW Business School undertook seven different studies to assess how the weather can affect people’s consumption behaviour, and found men and women differ in their response to a rainy day.

For the studies, the researchers measured and manipulated weather conditions and consistently found that unpleasant weather conditions increased negative mood and that this, in turn, increased “hedonic” (pleasure-seeking) consumption for both genders. But the behaviour was found to be far stronger among women.

Does the rain make you blue? There’s a scientific reason for it.

“Women experience a compounded weather-mood-consumption effect,” says Nitika Garg, Associate Professor in the School of Marketing at UNSW Business School. “A stronger mood response to unfavourable weather conditions and a higher likelihood of consuming hedonic goods in response to the negative weather-induced mood.”

The most surprising finding was just how strong the gender effect was. For example, in one experiment, women reported a 60 percent higher decline in mood in “bad” compared to “good” weather conditions than men, and this negative mood led to an 80 percent higher preference for comfort foods like chocolates and biscuits.

A grey and rainy day can make that chocolate cake too hard to resist. Save us a slice?

In another experiment – one that captured actual weather conditions based on temperature and rain – women again reported an increased preference for pleasurable food consumption by 80 to 100 percent, in response to a weather-induced negative mood.

Garg says they found “again and again” a huge uptick in women experiencing a negative mood because of bad weather, and then responding to it by eating more comfort food.

Past studies have shown women are more susceptible to mood disorders due to fluctuations in hormones like oestrogen. This affects neurotransmitters like dopamine, adrenaline and serotonin, which influences emotional state and a need for a mood boost. Because weather conditions such as sunlight also increase dopamine and serotonin, women tend to react differently – and more significantly – to weather than men.

When you’re cosy and warm inside, sometimes banana bread just feels right.

Some companies are already taking advantage of real-time local weather targeted advertising. But these ads usually only focus on the obvious things, like hot chocolate in winter and ice cream in summer. These study findings suggest that food brands could use the weather forecast to target consumers even more effectively – which is great news for them, but not the best news for the people they’re taking advantage of.

So next time the weather turns all wet and gloomy and you suddenly get ads for chocolate popping up all over your Facebook feed, this could be the reason why. Remember: knowledge is power, so don’t let the sneaky marketers win. Instead, log out of your computer or put down your phone, grab a piece of fruit and go dancing in the rain.

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