Cognitive Daily

Last weekend Greta and I had a joint party celebrating our fortieth birthdays (my birthday was in January, Greta’s is in May, so we split the difference). Naturally, the conversation turned to the changes that occur as we get older. I said that I thought I felt cold more often than when I was younger, and one friend, just a couple years older than me, said the same thing happened to him.

I can recall a time just seven or eight years ago when I was always the warmest person in the office — I was the guy who constantly wanted to turn the thermostat down, while everyone else wanted it much warmer. Now I frequently get the chills. Is this just a by-product of age, or is something else going on? I’ve also lost about 30 pounds since then, so maybe that’s to blame. This week’s study might help answer that question. We’ve got a few questions about how often you feel cold (or hot), and then a few questions that address some of the possible causes, such as age, gender, and weight. Maybe we’ll get to the bottom of the thermostat problem.

Click here to participate.

The study is brief, with just 12 quick questions, and should take just a minute or two of your time. You have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, March 28 to participate — or until we have 333 responses, whichever comes first. Don’t forget to come back next Friday for our analysis of the results!


  1. #1 Karen
    March 23, 2007

    A possible variable that was missing in the survey questions – what about level of activity at the moment of coldness? That is, the longer I sit and stare at a computer screen, the colder I get. But if I’m doing something that requires movement (not a workout, just movement) like filing, I tend to be ok or even overheated. Obviously there is a connection between amount of activity and temperature comfort level, but your questions only addressed it in general (“how often do you work out?”) instead of in relation to temperature (something like maybe, “what level of activity are you usually performing during situations when you are cold?”)

  2. #2 son2
    March 23, 2007

    I’ve also lost some weight in the past two years (quit lifting weights and cut back on my food intake, especially sweets), and I feel like I’m more prone to shivering really bad when it’s cold outside.

    I was discussing this with a friend, and he claimed that, mornings when he didn’t eat a substantial breakfast this winter, he was a lot colder in the office (that kinda makes sense to me as a physicist: if your gut is full of food, your heat capacity is greater…).

  3. #3 Jennifer Grucza
    March 23, 2007

    I found it difficult to answer a couple questions. What is a “normal” temperature? Also, thermostats vary quite a bit, I don’t think they’re accurate at all. The one in our office is set much higher than mine at home, yet my home is much warmer.

    I work with 5 guys, and I’m always freezing. I almost always have a fleece throw over my shoulders. Winter, summer, doesn’t matter. I’m thin, though I wouldn’t say I’m underweight. My coworkers are all of pretty average build. I think it’s a male/female thing. It seems like guys just run hotter. Though it’s true that I don’t remember being this cold when I was a kid, so maybe age plays into it as well.

    What I hate is in the summer months, when so many places (including my office) have the air-conditioning blasting. It makes no sense. I want to wear summer clothing so I’m comfortable outside, but then I freeze indoors. I hardly ever use my window air-conditioning unit at home. It’s much nicer just to have windows open and have a breeze going through the house. Plus it saves energy.

    Another interesting question is if people prefer being too cold or too hot. I would definitely prefer being too warm. I can deal with that. Being too cold is much more uncomfortable for me.

  4. #4 Reagan roy
    March 23, 2007

    The fats stored in our body are the vital heat producers in our body.When we do good exercise there is certain weight of fat which get lost easily while other portions take time,this might be a reason for feeling cold. And regarding taking in food , i feel it creates the capacity of the body to digest the can see the evidence from this website, which discusses the research on rabbits in colder temperatures which shows drop in fat from adipose issue

  5. #5 RyanG
    March 23, 2007

    Another interesting question is if people prefer being too cold or too hot. I would definitely prefer being too warm. I can deal with that. Being too cold is much more uncomfortable for me.

    If you’re too cold you can just add more clothes. If you’re too hot, once you’re naked, there’s nothing more to lose.

  6. #6 Reagan roy
    March 23, 2007

    The heat producing capacity of the body to resit cold depends on many factors as well like quantity of fat layer below the skin(adipose tissue),nature of work. If u can see sometimes people doing mental work can produce more heat.Conditions like work tension, nervousness, fear, anger,frusturation and also physichal works. Hence it depends on the personality of the people to produce this heat also and if they are producing enough heat then they feel less cold. As you know the general personality straits
    between gender varies hence do the rate of heat production.

    Apart from this there is also another phenomena which can confuse our judgements, it is airconditioning system. I hope that it is known to all about the Hot & cold spots problem in air conditioning, which can generate pockets of hot and cold spots in a room.

  7. #7 Peter Hollo
    March 24, 2007

    I’ve always hated being too hot. I am a bit overweight, and I know that makes me hate the heat even more, but even when I was younger (I’m 33) and skinnier I hated the heat.
    I also don’t like being too cold, but I can do stuff when I cold, whereas when I’m too hot I cease to function :/

    Just adding my opinion I guess, but also pointing out that while my data will fit the “male” and “non-skinny” demographics, that might be at least slightly by accident. Although I’ve always been male!

  8. #8 Katherine Moore
    March 24, 2007

    My bet is that the biggest difference you’ll see is in gender. I would say this would be a bigger difference than weight or age.

    I think that muscle mass is one thing that probably plays a big role in this. That’s the biggest difference between men and women — how much muscle they have.

    I have always been someone who gets cold easily. Especially in the summer, when rooms are air conditioned. That’s when I’m the least comfortable. I am also a thin (but not underweight) female. I have noticed, though, that in recent years I’ve become less sensitive to the cold. I’m thinking it could have to do with the fact that I’ve been lifting weights a lot and have increased my muscle mass pretty substantially.

  9. #9 Miss Tenacity
    March 24, 2007

    I concur with the “prefer cold” crowd. I feel colder than I used to several years and about 10lbs ago, but would still rather have that than overly warm.

    Thanks for the survey – it should be interesting to see the results.

  10. #10 Allison
    March 25, 2007

    I wasn’t sure how to answer the bit about the summer thermostat. I live in Portland, OR – although some people have air conditioning here, few do. So the thermostat is turned off and we just deal with the heat – there’s only about one week a year where a shaded southern exposure and fans isn’t enough to control temperature.

    As for the heating in winter – it’s usually frugality that leads me to lower the temperature. I’d be happiest at 72, but I keep it at 68 and cuddle up in a blanket at home. If you’re looking at age versus temperature tolerance, I’m a young person with a generally easy time with temperature – and I live in one of the mildest climates ever. I got pretty cold last night on my way back from a night out with my friends – but it was pouring and I got wet. So the fact that I’m young with a high tolerance means less than if I lived in a desert or tundra.

  11. #11 Tlonista
    March 25, 2007

    As a few commenters have already said, what is a normal temperature, anyway? Here, at the tail end of a Canadian winter, I’m always chilly. But summers (sans air conditioning) are blazing hot. Which is typical?

  12. #12 Reagan roy
    March 26, 2007

    The trick is , everybody is used to stay up with our climates and our body is producing the rate of heat & limits according to our body fat,work nature & gender.
    First of all wat is heat? and wat is cold? .It is just the sensation of your body to the differences in temperatures. It is a relative feeling which u can get due to temperature difference from body heat produced to climate out of the body. For example 2 people sitting in a single climate are finding different feelings that means external temperature is same while internal body temperature is different between them.For me wat i consider a comfortable temperature or normal temperature when u dont feel neither hot nor cold (i.e temperature internal and external is equal). But i feel there is still some more gap.

  13. #13 Jennifer Grucza
    March 26, 2007

    Ryan, that’s the argument I get from people, but even so there are limitations. For example, I can’t work (software engineering) wearing gloves, but my hands are often the coldest part of me. I don’t like typing with freezing fingers, but I often find myself in that situation, because the guys in the office all think it’s perfectly warm (grr).

    I still prefer being too warm. It’s not painful. Too cold is painful. Too warm is just a mild annoyance.

  14. #14 acm
    March 26, 2007

    you *say* it’s open through Wednesday, but when I clicked on the link (now, Monday morning), it tells me it’s closed…


  15. #15 dave munger
    March 26, 2007

    Sorry — It’s already full. We get charged extra for more than 1000 participants per month, so we have to ration out the responses.

  16. #16 llewelly
    March 27, 2007

    Jennifer Grucza :

    I can’t work (software engineering) wearing gloves, but my hands are
    often the coldest part of me.

    Two suggestions: (a) Go to a hardware store, and look for ‘handyman’
    gloves in your size. I have a pair of these, and can type nicely in
    them (after a few hours practice) .
    (b) Look for some small ‘thinsulate’ gloves. I have a few pairs of
    these, and I can type in these also.

    I picked this idea in college, where one of the computer labs I frequented was
    kept at 60 F, which made my hands feel very cold. I don’t need them as
    often anymore, but I still find them useful from time to time, as ACs at sw development shops seem to be either wonky, and/or influenced by lots of people who disagree on temp.

  17. #17 hanmeng
    March 30, 2007

    I remember when I was a teen I didn’t mind the cold so much, and thought old people were overly sensitive. I’m a little over fifty now, and really mind the cold. Sometimes I wear long underwear if I’m sitting for extended periods under 70F. I’ve also noticed that if I’m uncomfortably cold, my blood pressure is higher (above 140/90).

  18. #18 travesti
    July 27, 2009

    I am a bit overweight, and I know that makes me

New comments have been disabled.