This week’s Casual Friday study attempted to get to the bottom of the age-old thermostat battle. In every office, classroom, and home, it seems, no one can agree on the proper temperature to set the thermostat. While one person is shivering like a wet poodle, their office-mate is sweating like fountain. I’ve talked with a few of my (now over-40) friends about the issue, and several of us agree that we seem to be getting more sensitive to temperature as we age.
A much more common stereotype, however, is that men tend to run hot while women run cold. When my family watches TV together, Jim and I are often in shorts and T-shirts while Greta and Nora huddle together under an afghan. We asked 333 readers how often they felt cold indoors when the room was a “normal” temperature, and the responses confirmed the stereotype:
Nearly half of all women responding said they felt cold “daily,” compared to just 13 percent of men. Most men indicated they felt cold only once a month or less, whereas over 75 percent of women felt cold more than once a week. All these differences are statistically significant.
These two graphs show how that disparity leads to conflict at the thermostat:
Both male and female readers were asked what their thermostats were set at during the day in winter, and what temperature they would set them at if they didn’t have to compromise with others. Many men clearly would like the thermostats lower than the actual settings, and many women would like it warmer. The real battleground is at the edges: while 22 percent of men want the thermostat set between 60 and 65 degrees, just 7 percent of women do. Meanwhile, 35 percent of women prefer a thermostat setting of 73 degrees or above, compared to just 15.8 percent of men. Again, all these differences are statistically significant.
There may have been some sampling bias in our results: normally the ratio of male-female response for Casual Fridays is about 60:40; this week it was 50:50 — clearly this is an issue that resonates more with women than our typical Casual Friday fare.
But what about our initial question? Do we get more sensitive to temperature as we age? And are there any other factors in temperature sensitivity?
We asked respondents to indicate their age, weight status (over or underweight), and amount of exercise. I calculated correlations for each of these factors, and these summarized in the graph below:
Asterisks indicate significant correlations. As expected, women are disproportionately unlikely to be hot and likely to be cold. Overweight status also matches stereotype, with overweight people significantly more likely to be hot and unlikely to be cold (though it should be noted that an r of .11 , though significant, is quite small). Amount of exercise showed no significant relationship to temperature sensitivity, but there was a significant small correlation between age and feeling hot. The anecdotal experience of me and my friends feeling colder as we get older is not borne out by our results here.
Who is most likely to want the thermostat turned down? An overweight, old man. Who will want it turned up? A thin, young woman.
We collected quite a bit more data than I’ve reported here; if anyone is interested in using it for further analysis, let me know and I’ll send you the files.