Chinese ‘tweets’ Hint that Happiness Drops as Air Pollution Rises

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Two articles, one from Science News and the other one from Nature Human Behavior talk about air pollution is not only a public health threat, but also it may affect people’s emotions and even lower people’s sense of happiness in China. To be able to verify this idea, the authors collected 210 million tweets of people’s sentiments from Sina Weibo, the Chinese largest social interaction platform, and they used these data to calibrate a daily city-level expressed happiness metric and studied how it dynamically relates to daily air quality index and the concentrations of PM2.5. 

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Based on daily data for 144 Chinese cities in 2014, they concluded that a one standard deviation increase in air quality index is related to a 0.046 standard deviation decrease in the well-being index, which means that air pollution does spoil citizens’ mood and harm their health. By reading these two articles, I claim that the ‘higher the level of air pollution in Chinese cities, the lower people’s happiness,’ although the Science News article clearly and concisely represented the facts from the Nature Human Behavior article, the Nature Human Behavior article convinced readers successfully by providing more details and data support.

The entry points of the two articles are the same, and they have similar information and scope demonstrated, but the primary scientific article was more convincing than the material in news media. Both reports focused on the Chinese social media platform suggests that poor air quality index leads to a lower sense of happiness of people. Since the Science News article was for a broader audience, it just conveyed some significant conclusion to the public in a simple way and lacked details, so the audience may not understand the point thoroughly. However, to better show their claim, the primary scientific article provided information in detailed, such as figures, air quality index tables.

 For example, The Nature Human Behavior article used a baseline regression model to study the main effect of air pollution on people’s expressed well-being, mapped the spatial distribution of Weibo posts in China, and created a roughness curve that expressed the relationship between happiness index and PM2.5 concentration. Therefore, the readers could access the information more intuitively and got a deep understanding of the author’s idea. Besides, both articles mentioned that a city’s public expressed happiness was also correlated to weather conditions, major events and holidays. They were much happier on holidays, and good weather would increase people’s sense of joy. The scientific paper went into more detailed about how these variables affect people’s feelings, like temperature, cloud, rain, weekday and weekend, but the science news article failed to mention these details.

Both articles demonstrate the critical information in a good way. However, the Nature Human Behavior article is more convincing and understandable since the author provides readers with figures and data tables to help the audience better understand their ideas.


  1. S. Zheng et al. Air pollution lowers Chinese urbanites’ expressed happiness on social media. Nature Human Behaviour. Published online January 21, 2019. doi:10.1038/s41562-018-0521-2.
  2. .Zheng, S. & Kahn, M. E. Understanding China’s urban pollution dynamics. J. Econ. Lit. 51, 731–772 (2013).
  3. Welsch, H. Environment and happiness: valuation of air pollution using life satisfaction data. Ecol. Econ. 58, 801–813 (2006).
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Chinese ‘tweets’ hint that happiness drops as air pollution rises. (2021, Nov 30). Retrieved February 5, 2023 , from

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