Why Some People Are Always Hot Or Always Cold

There is a constant debate about the temperature of our office.

One group is always cold and constantly turning up the thermostat. It could be the middle of August and they’re wearing sweaters to keep warm. The second group always complains about how hot it is and sets that sweet sweet A/C as cold as it will go. In the middle of the winter, it’s not uncommon for a few of those folks to wear short sleeve shirts in the office.

Do you fit into one of these two groups? If so, you’re not alone. It turns out there is actual science behind the phenomenon.  There are a variety of factors that can make an otherwise healthy person feel colder as compared to others around.

Here are a few:

  • Stress:  Your brain has a special area to help regulate temperature called the hypothalamus.   However, stress can interfere with that internal regulation. According to Michael Lynch, Ph.D., a clinical neuropsychologist who spoke to Women’s Health:

“If you’re stressed, your autonomic nervous system kicks in, causing blood to move toward your body’s core organs,” and causing your body temperature to rise, says Lynch. “This is your body’s fight or flight response.”

  • Gender:  A 2011 review published in the International Journal of Indoor Environment and Health found that while the internal body temperatures of men and women are about the same, women may be more likely to feel sensitivity to the air temperature.  One explanation for this is that women are typically smaller than men and have more surface area exposed to the environment says Heather Milton, senior exercise physiologist at the NYU Langone Sports Performance Center and a certified strength and conditioning specialist.  In addition, researchers at the University of Utah discovered that men’s hands were were on average 90.14 degrees while women’s hands were 87.4 degrees.
  • Age: According to the New York Times, older people tend to feel colder than younger people.   This is due to a “decrease in circulation as the walls of the blood vessels lose their elasticity and the thinning of the fat layer under the skin that helps conserve body heat.”  Also, as people grow older, their metabolic response to cold can slow down and, as a result, have a harder time warming a person up.

DNews also has a great video that provides a good explanation of the reasons:

Editor’s Note:  Updated the article with a more recent study and removed an older reference to a CNN report.