So, Why Do Some People Cry Easily on Planes?

It’s not just babies. We non-diaper-wearing adults (and maybe some who do, no judging) have a tendency to blubber more easily when on planes, too.  There’s a reason why people talk about the ‘Mile Cry Club’ these days.

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a heart of stone, or you swore to never cry on land, the effect is unavoidable when you’re up in the air. We got down to the bottom of this, and researched – why do people (even men, as a survey by Virgin Atlantic has shown), cry so easily when in the air?

“These are manly tears!” – men, probably. Image: Pixabay

And no, it’s not just because you’ve said goodbye to your nearest and dearest just moments ago – it’s more than that. It’s a ‘backed-by-science’ kind of more than that.

There has only been one psychologist who has studied the effects on flying on our emotions, and it’s Jodi De Luca of Erie Colorado Counseling, US, and what she found was that various stressors trigger everybody’s fight-or-flight response.

You Don’t Feel the Stress of Travelling, Actually

Ever get anxious looking at boarding gates, even though you know you’re early? Image: Pexels

There is a lot of stress involved when you’re travelling. Getting there on time, checking in, sending your luggage away, making it to the boarding gate on time, and the list goes on. But what is considered ‘normal’ to us actually causes heaps of stress internally. We just don’t realise it. Again, remember when you said goodbye to your loved ones and tried not to think about how sad it was? That just adds to the list.

When the Cabin Pressure Changes, so Does Your Body

You snooze, you lose … control of your body. Image: Pexels

A German expert and president of the Society for Aerospace Medicine, Jochen Hinkelbein, said the changes in cabin pressure makes us more prone to hypoxia – a reduction in the amount of oxygen carried in our blood. So, when you feel like falling asleep during takeoff despite being well-rested and energetic beforehand, that’s perfectly normal.

Low Cabin Air Pressure Wreaks Havoc in Our System

A picture that illustrates your brain experiencing confusion. Image: Pexels

Our ears pop once we ascend to cruising altitude, and we also experience hypoxia. Totally normal, right? Internally, however, we tend to experience fatigue and confusion, lose our ability to make decisions, and well, our ability to remain emotionally stable goes off-balance.

You’re Low-Key Worried That You Have No Control Over Your Situation

Calm on the outside, this on the inside. Image: Pixabay

Being seated next to, sometimes, complete strangers, has a sneaky way of making you nervous. Plus, you’re suspended thousands of feet in the air, crossing oceans. There is no escape. So many scary scenarios run through your mind (we’d rather not get into those!), whether you like it or not, and this just makes our entire being go on overdrive.

You’re Also Dehydrated

Hail hydrate! Image: Pexels

It’s never humid whenever you’re on the plane, thanks to the top-notch air-conditioning system. 25 to 30% less humidity means that we’re also less hydrated. Oh, this is exactly why we tend to get drunk fast onboard.

It’s Not the Movie You’re Watching

Some have cried to non-emotional movies. Image: Pexel

It really doesn’t matter what you’re watching when travelling – the content has no direct effect on your emotions. Stephen Groening, a professor of Comparative Literature, Cinema, and Media at the University of Washington backs this. He too was clearly taken by how people tend to easily cry over any in-flight movie.

Just to prove our point, we’ve asked a couple of Malaysians on the movies they’ve wept to, in-flight. We got:

1. Thor

2. Bend It Like Beckham

3. Showgirls

4. The Ring (yes, the horror one)

5. Men In Black 3

6. Hannah Montana

7. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

8. The Mask

9. Wreck-it-Ralph

10. Shutter Island

So, Now That We Know All This, How Do We Avoid Tearing up on Planes?

Get productive in the air and show off to other passengers that you’re smart AF. Image: Pexels

Try challenging stuff that will stimulate your brain. Think Sudoku or crossword puzzles. You’ll think more and this would make you less prone to being emotional on flight. However, if you are actually looking to shed some manly (and womanly tears), give notoriously-emotional movies a go such as Marley & Me, Christopher Robin, Wonder, Free Solo and Hachiko. Bonus movies include Hercules and Lion King — but you have been warned!


What do you think?

Written by Kathlyn Ursula D'Souza

Professionally a journalist, personally a lover of all things fried chicken, Gogorn (her big black German Shepherd) and ice cream.

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