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How the weather affects the pain of citizen scientists using a smartphone app

Researchers have used smartphone data to investigate the relationship between pain and weather conditions, and found that there is a small but significant relationship.

William Dixon et al. (2019) reported that weather has been thought to affect symptoms in patients with chronic disease since the time of Hippocrates over 2000 years ago. Multivariable case-crossover analysis including the four state weather variables demonstrated that an increase in relative humidity was associated with a higher odds of a pain event with an OR of 1.139 (95% confidence interval 1.099–1.181) per 10 percentage point increase. This study has demonstrated that higher relative humidity and wind speed, and lower atmospheric pressure, were associated with increased pain severity in people with long-term pain conditions. The ‘worst’ combination of weather variables would increase the odds of a pain event by just over 20% compared to an average day.

There were 2658 patients included in the analysis. The researchers admit that “There are potential limitations to this study. It is possible only people with a strong belief in a weather–pain relationship participated. Rain and cold weather were the most common pre-existing beliefs, authors say.”