Saturday, 14 January 2017
Friday, 13 January 2017
THIS YEAR, "Blue Monday" will fall on the 16th of January, three days after Friday the 13th (spooky...?)
What is Blue Monday? As well as a #9 1983 hit by New Order, apparently January 16th will be the bleakest, most depressing day of the year for the Northern Hemisphere. The concept of Blue Monday was thought up in 2005 when Dr Cliff Arnall was persuaded to come up with an equation behind melancholy that looked so science-y and official that the press would be powerless to refuse it. That formula is:
[W+(D-d)]xTQ/MxNA – where W is weather, D is debt, d monthly salary, T time since Christmas, Q time since failure of attempt to give something up, M low motivational level and NA the need to take action.
Despite being pseudoscience at best and self-contradictory at worst, the concept of Blue Monday has now been picked up by most news outlets, many advertisers and even some mental health campaigners.
But are we generally more blue at certain times of year? On an individual basis, one in 15 people in the UK may experience seasonal affective disorder during the winter months.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a well documented phenomenon. First observed in the 1500s by a Goth scholar named Jordanes in the Getica - a history of Visigoths and Ostrogoths - in which he describes the moods of some inhabitants of Scandinavia.
By the 1980s, SAD was named and lack of sunlight was blamed. Treatment with artificial sunlight does appear to be effective along with physical exercise and SSRIs. However on a population-wide scale things look a little different.
There are many difficulties in measuring the general mood of a population but large scale surveys and suicide rates are the go-to data. During the 1960s and 1970s, a study in the United States revealed that suicides were 47% more common in the spring and summer months. A 1951 review of suicide statistics in the UK from 1912-1948 showed similar results.
More recently, multiple studies have put to bed the popular belief that suicide are more common during the winter months. In fact, sunshine and high temperatures may cause a peak in suicide numbers, in both northern and southern hemispheres.
So the Blue Monday myth is just that - a myth created for Sky Travel to increase holiday bookings during what would otherwise be a lull that got picked up by media outlets needing an easy headline. Plus it is a pretty good dance anthem.