January the 18th this year is supposedly the “most depressing day of the year, but the myth of Blue Monday seriously needs to be busted.
“Blue Monday” is the name given to a Monday in January, typically the third or fourth Monday of the month. The term has become popular through the years, but the truth is that the supposed science for calculating the most depressing day of the year is completely invalid.
Blue Monday Origin
The modern myth of Blue Monday was started and popularised as part of a marketing campaign for travel company Sky Travel in a 2005 press release. The company claimed to have taken various factors into consideration to achieve their results. A formula using debt, time since Christmas, weather and other aspects deemed to be “depressing” were put through a pseudoscientific formula to result in the Blue Monday date. Physician and Bad Science expert Ben Goldacre has said that the formula rules: “fail even to make mathematical sense on their own terms.”
Since the first press release, the concept of Blue Monday has been an easy sell to journalists looking for space to fill in newspapers and blogs. Goldacre labels this: “churnalism”, and voices alarm in official organisations such as The Samaritans and the Mental Health Foundation using it to promote mental health issues.
Blue Monday Dangers
The real dangers of “Blue Monday” isn’t the day itself; it’s the idea that one day can be more depressing than others, and that it can affect the general population en masse. Goldacre’s mythbusting research of statistics across the world finds examples of higher suicide rates in summer and antidepressants being prescribed more in the spring.
Anybody who has experienced from depression can testify of its power to descend for a variety of reasons, on any day. Depression can be predictable or take people completely by surprise . Perpetuating the myth of Blue Monday does more harm to understanding mental health issues as it simplifies and distorts them. Understanding and tackling depression is not as easy as creating a completely false formula, created for a travel company’s marketing campaign. If only it was.
“Blue Monday” is churnalism, beware any journalist who puffs it [via Bad Science]