Air Pollution and Happiness in China

Sino Weibo Tweets Reveal How

Air Pollution Might Negatively Impact Your Mood

Research has previously shown that air pollution is damaging to our health, productivity, and education. But how does air pollution impact people emotionally and does this vary in different situations?


The geospatial distribution and density of geotagged Weibo posts in China used in this research project.

Our scientific results show that...

Higher levels of pollution leads to a more negative mood.


This response is about 3 times more sensitive when looking at Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.


Note: Larger circles indicate a higher sensitivity to air pollution.


People's sensitivity to air pollution varies according to...

Day of the Week


A person's sensitivity to air pollution was found to be greater on weekends. Sensitivity to air pollution is about two times higher for women (vs. males) and on holidays (vs. non-holidays).





Cloud cover and temperature also impacts a person's response to air pollution. When weather is not ideal, such as when there are more clouds in the sky or temperature is very high or very low, people tend to be more sensitive to higher air pollution levels. 

Cloud Cover




Income and City Air Pollution

Looking at the 144 cities individually, we found that people from the cleanest and dirtiest cities were the most severely affected by pollution levels, as well as those with higher incomes.


Data and Methods


We sought out to explore a broader range of effects of air pollution on people’s daily lives in highly polluted Chinese cities. However, self-reported life satisfaction surveys often provide a retrospective take on the relationship between air pollution and well-being. So, to study a real-time connection between air pollution and people's sentiment, we decided to use social media data.

Using a sentiment analysis on the collected tweets, we were able to calculate a median sentiment score for each day by city. This was compared with daily local air quality measures, PM2.5 concentration, and weather data.

Results show that air pollution has a negative impact on people’s mood. Women and those with higher income seem to be more affected by air pollution, while bad air quality has a higher effect on people’s mood during weekends and holidays. Days where weather is not ideal (cloudy, or very hot or cold) is also a factor in how people's moods are affected by air pollution.

Finally, those living in the cleanest or dirtiest cities are most responsive to air pollution due to the fact that they are more aware of the negative consequences of exposure.