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Blue Monday

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

What is 'Blue Monday'?

'Blue Monday' is often said to be the most depressing day of the year, which always attracts widespread media coverage. However, the mental health charity, Mind, says it trivialises mental illness.

Blue Monday has been derided for years by scientists who say the formula used to explain why the day – usually the third Monday in January – is the most depressing of the year is nothing more than pseudoscience.

Weather, debt and failed resolutions

The origins of blue Monday can be traced back to a public relations campaign in 2005.

The explanation for why people were most likely to feel down in the dumps on this date was explained by a mathematical formula which took into account various factors such as weather conditions, debt levels, failed New Year resolutions, and the number of days since the Christmas holidays.

That year, the date was set as Monday 24th January. The formula read: 1/8W+(D-d) 3/8xTQ MxNA.

The key to the formula was that W was weather, D stood for debt - minus the money (d) due on January's pay day - and T was the time since Christmas. Q stood for the period since the failure to quit a bad habit. M represented general motivational levels and NA was the need to take action and do something about it.

The formula was credited to a former part-time tutor at Cardiff University.

Since then, blue Monday has been used in advertising campaigns to promote goods and services in the post-holiday winter period.

'Bad science'

It has also been routinely debunked – most noticeably by Ben Goldacre, a medical doctor and academic, well known for identifying the misuse of science and statistics.

Dr Goldacre has repeatedly spoken out against the annual repetition of the blue Monday myth, saying "there isn’t really any good evidence for seasonal variation in mood".

He has also expressed concern that it harms the cause of improving public attitude to mental health issues by using "dodgy science".

Depression misconceptions

Mind says 1 in 6 people will experience depression during their life.

Common symptoms including inability to sleep, seeing no point in the future, feeling disconnected from other people, and experiencing suicidal thoughts.

The charity says there is no credible evidence to suggest that one day in particular can increase the risk of people feeling depressed.

It acknowledges that certain things that may make people feel down during January, such as post-Christmas financial strains, broken New Year’s resolutions, bad weather, and short daylight hours. However, it says depression is not just a one day event.

Reviewed on November 17, 2017

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