Just days after Friday 13 sent superstitious people into a spin, ‘Blue Monday’ was upon us with January 16 promising to be the most depressing day of the year for Britons.
But does ‘Blue Monday’ really have any scientific basis or is it just the perfect excuse for companies to get rid of leftover Christmas stock, while telling people that they must be unhappy?
Dr Cliff Arnall, formerly of Cardiff University, came up with a formula in 2005 that diagnosed the third Monday in January as the most dismal day of the year.
His equation takes into account factors such as debt, time since failing new year’s resolutions and weather.
[W + (D-d)] x TQ
M x NA
W = weather
D = debt
d = monthly salary
T = time since Christmas
Q = time since failed quit attempt M = low motivational levels
NA = the need to take action.
Dr Arnall even went as far as to say that 2017’s Blue Monday “could be the bluest ever” (The Telegraph), hypothesising that Brexit and the election of Donald Trump could be to blame.
“The deaths of so many celebrities, many in their 50s and 60s, has also worried people by reminding them of their own mortality,” he added.
However, the concept of ‘Blue Monday’ also has its critics. Not least because Arnall’s calculations were published as part of a Sky Travel press release; although the company, as many people have pointed out, has a vested interest in people searching for ways to escape the January blues.
Dean Burnett, a doctor of Neuroscience, commented in The Guardian :“Making an extra effort to be supportive of people with depression on ‘Blue Monday’ is like being more considerate of diabetics because Jupiter is rising in Virgo.”
Burnett goes on to say that depression doesn’t work this way, labels the equation used to determine Blue Monday “gibberish” and says the date is no “more than cynical advertising bumph that people have lapped up to an alarming extent.”
Examples of companies using Blue Monday as an advertising opportunity were not hard to come by on Twitter, which was awash with brands offering ways for consumers to spend away their troubles on 2017’s darkest day.
However, even if the science behind the phenomenon has been largely questioned , isn’t the publicity surrounding the day largely harmless?
Mental health charities have spoken out against the idea, arguing that Blue Monday belittles the problems that those living with depression face all year round.
Isabella Goldie from the Mental Heath Foundation rationalises: The idea that depression can somehow be calculated by formula is seen by many to trivialise their lived experience.
On the other hand, Samaritans used the publicity surrounding the hashtag #BlueMonday to launch their campaign “Brew Monday”, which encouraged people to “take time for a cuppa and a chat”.
Whether you had a Blue Monday or a Brew Monday, Dr Arnall also hypothesised that the happiest day of the year falls in mid-June. Only six months to go.