It’s a common thought that spring time brings thoughts of love, attraction, and sexual desire. Spring fever, as some call it, is an experience felt by many. Think about your own seasonal fluctuations. Have you fallen in love more often in the spring or winter? When were you born? When were your babies born? Is there any pattern to when your relationships have ended? Let’s explore the research behind spring fever to gather more information and see if it really exists.
One thing we know is that testosterone levels do change through the seasons. Testosterone is actually highest in the late fall and early winter (October) and lowest in early spring (April). Does this help our spring fever theory or hurt it? Well, Jed Diamond describes what he calls the “Irritable Male Syndrome,” which is not just the theory that men are irritable and not easy to talk to. It’s the theory that men are more irritable when testosterone is highest and the days are shortest (pointing in the direction of winter). Therefore, the theory would hold that when testosterone is lower, like in spring, men and women are more likely to fall in love (because men are less irritable), even though they are more likely to have more sex in the winter (because men are hornier). These findings are consistent with seasonal patterns in birth rates, as the most babies are born in August and September, meaning that conception is highest in November and December. The pattern is even more pronounced in places like Alberta, where daily sunlight is more variable in winter and summer. There are, of course, other factors at play here, like people wanting to stay inside during the colder temperatures and running out of other things to do. Sperm count is also highest in the winter months.
When we get stressed, cortisol is released into our blood stream, which helps us get away from something dangerous. It is also the hormone that is released just before we wake up, which rises us to action. However, this hormone doesn’t always function the exact right way since it does the best job when daily sunlight is consistent. In the winter months, cortisol levels are generally lower during the day because of the decreased sun exposure, and in people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the levels are even lower. This is part of the reason why people with SAD have a hard time getting up in the morning and are less motivated during the day. In fact, we all experience a bit of this in the winter months, which means we are kind of on a low level hibernation. As soon as spring hits though, we start to feel better, cortisol increases which helps us get up and go, causing us to meet more people and be more interested in them. Being more active in the sunlight also increases blood flow in our body as well as endorphins, making us feel better and more full of life, which makes us more appealing too. We are also able to better regulate our stress levels, which decreases floods of cortisol during the day (and cortisol is not generally helpful when it is too high all day), since we take more vacations and are able to relax more. Again, our moods improve which helps people get along better.
This next one may sound strange, but it’s true. When testosterone levels rise in women, they become less curvy and fat shifts toward the waist. Researchers have found then, that women are at their most curvy in the spring, when their testosterone is lowest. You don’t need research to tell you that being curvy is more attractive, but it’s consistent that a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7 in women is the most attractive to men. Couple that with women and men shedding the winter jackets in the spring, and people working on their beach bodies, and you’ve got a recipe for the right visual stimuli. Another interesting piece of research is that menopause onset is least likely in the spring (most likely in winter), which also may impact our mood and receptivity to others. What does all of this mean? Well, surveys generally show that people feel sexier in the spring and summer, and most people recognize the phenomenon of spring fever. Now, you understand some of the reasons behind it, which may help you be aware of what you’re susceptible to in the different months of the year. My recommendation is that before you get too caught up in spring fever, see what all the seasons bring to your new found relationship, so that you know what you’re in for, and you don’t rush things based on a flood of positive hormones. Also, recognize that the feelings you have at one time may not represent how you’ll feel during another season, so watch out for affairs, moodiness, and sexual desire fluctuations, as they will likely not be permanent changes, even though it may feel like it at the time.