Is Blue Monday really the saddest day of the year? No, it’s pseudoscience

The Blue Monday falls every year on third Monday of January and is often presented as “the saddest day of the year”. The supposed fact that this is the saddest day of the year is based on a mathematical equation, called Arnall equation. However, experts consider the concept of Blue Monday as pseudoscience. In this article we clarify its scientific accuracy.

How Blue Monday was born: the story

The idea of ​​Blue Monday probably comes from the fact that Mondays are often associated with a certain sadness or melancholy, due to the need to abandon the fun of the weekend and resume the work routine. But why blue? In English, the adjective not only indicates the color blue but is also associated with melancholy or, precisely, “sadness”. The return to work after the Christmas holidays, the winter cold and the shorter days contribute to building the idea that this day is the saddest of the year.

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The concept was coined in 2005 from Cliff Arnall, a British psychologist, through an equation that included variables such as time, debts accumulated during the holidays, motivation and the need to act. The origin of Blue Monday can be traced back to a press release issued in 2005 from Sky Travel, a British channel dedicated to travel and documentaries. Arnall himself said that he had identified the date of the third Monday of January to help companies analyze the tendency of their customers, observing how the latter are more inclined to book a trip when they are in a state of deep bad mood. This alone helps us frame Blue Monday as a journalistic concept more than rigorously scientific.

The Blue Monday equation

Arnall, at the time employed in an educational institution employed by theCardiff Universityhad developed an equation starting from a series of parameters that would allow us to calculate the day on which sadness reaches its peak each year. In the 2005 version, the equation looked like this:

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The variables would be the following:

W = conditions atmospheric;
D = debt;
d = wage monthly;
T = time elapsed from the Christmas;
Q = time elapsed from the failure of the resolutions For The new year;
M = levels motivational low;
Na = sensation Of a need Of Act.

According to this theory, on Blue Monday people feel more depressed because the brain unconsciously realizes on this day that the Christmas holidays are over and that the following months will be characterized by the almost total absence of public holidays. However, it is clear that none of these variables can be strictly defined, so it is unable to use the formula to calculate anything.

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Scientific criticism of Blue Monday

The Arnall equation is made up of variables that, although they seem relevant at first glance, they lack solid scientific foundations. Not only that: the equation is one free interpretation of the professor, so much so that the university itself distanced itself from it. Despite this, every year, the same story presents itself.

Experts point out that measuring happiness is an extremely complex process and it cannot be reduced to a simple mathematical formula. The harshest criticism focuses on the fact that the equation was developed with promotional intentions, rather than for scientific reasons. In short, it is one pseudoscientific narrative.

Psychological criticism of Blue Monday

But there is also another factor to consider: the depression it’s a pathology real, which has a devastating effect on the lives of those who suffer from it, and should therefore be treated with due respect. Branding a certain day year after year as “the most depressing of the year” instead risks trivializing the suffering of those who actually struggle with depression.

For those who suffer from mood disorders, it can even be a cause for anxiety and agitation. And even a trigger that can generate a worsening of the disease, sort of self-fulfilling prophecy pushing us to feel in a bad mood on what was presented to us as “the most depressing day of the year according to science”. Although, as we have seen, science has very little to do with this concept.

So, no, on the third Monday of January we are no sadder than usual. Blue Monday can be considered an example of how popular culture can embrace concepts without a solid scientific basis. Its persistence in the collective imagination underlines the need to be addressed critically cultural narratives and to consider the complexity of human emotions.