‘Blue Monday’ is apparently the most ‘depressing’ day of the year…
Accept it’s not.
It’s actually the day of the year on which people are most likely to book a holiday, based on the following formula:
A psychologist called Cliff Arnall came up with the formula in 2005. He developed it on behalf Travel (a now defunct media channel), who wanted to know what motivated people to book a summer holiday, and the bits of the formula are (I think) supposed to represent those variables.
Industry stats suggest that late January is the period when people are most likely to book a holiday (how far this has been reinforced by the Blue Monday marketing phenomenon is hard to say), so Arnall’s variables may be valid. I’ve no idea how he came up with either them or the formula, but the idea behind it doesn’t appear to have been to calculate the most ‘depressing’ day of the year.
However, somehow the media have come up with the concept of ‘Blue Monday’, and now the third Monday in January is, in the public’s imagination, the day of the year which is the most ‘depressing’.
Intuitively this makes sense: debt, darkness, post-Christmas, all things we might think make it more likely that we will be miserable.
However, there is no actual evidence to back up the claim that Blue Monday is the most ‘depressing’ day of the year.
There are actually two ‘scientific’ sources we can use to see how happy people are: The Office for National Statistics Wellbeing Survey and the Global Happiness Survey. Both are worth checking out, but the problem is neither of them (as far as I’m aware) collect happiness data on a daily basis. They simply don’t drill down into that level of granularity.
People have used social media sentiment analysis to look at how mood varies day to day, but this doesn’t back up the concept of Blue Monday… if anything early spring seems to be the period when people are the least happy.
There’s a further problem, the official view of the mental health charity MIND, that Blue Monday trivializes depression which tends to be a long-term mental health condition which doesn’t simply worsen as we move from Christmas into January and then gradually lift as we get further towards spring.
In the end it must be remembered that ‘Blue Monday’ is actually a marketing tool, designed to make us buy crap we don’t need in order to ‘lift our moods’, which aren’t necessarily lower in January at all!
And as a result, we get a raft of newspaper articles telling us how to ‘beat Blue Monday’, some of which suggest we should ‘book a holiday’ which is where the whole concept started after all!
Relevance to A level sociology
Firstly the concept of Blue Monday illustrates the need to think critically – this is a great example of a concept which is based on completely invalid measurements. It simply has no validity, so the only question you can ask is ‘why does it exist’, rather than ‘why are people more miserable in late January (they are not, according to the evidence!).
This is possible support for the Marxist theory of society – of ideological control through the media: Blue Monday appears to be a media fabrication designed to get us to buy more stuff.
Ben Goldacre – on why Blue Science is Bad Science
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