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Blue Monday: The 'Most Depressing Day of the Year' Is Debunked

by Don Melvin /
Depressed woman hiding her face in her hand, UKPhotofusion / UIG via Getty Images

So the Christmas buzz has worn off? The holiday bills are arriving? You’ve already broken your New Year’s resolutions? And to top it off, the weather stinks?

Well, we bring you glad tidings. January 16 might have been dubbed 2017's "Blue Monday," but it is not — repeat not — the most depressing day of the year.

"The ‘science’ behind it has been effectively debunked"

So who said it was? A Welsh psychologist named Cliff Arnall, formerly of Cardiff University, who now works as a life coach. In 2005, he came up with a formula that determined, according to him, that the third Monday in January was the year's gloomiest day.

He christened it "Blue Monday." After a time it became, well, a thing in the U.K.

And this year, according to the British press, Arnall doubled down on his prediction. This year’s Blue Monday, he said, could be the bluest ever — what with the British exit from the European Union, the looming presidency of Donald Trump, and the deaths of George Michael and Carrie Fisher reminding us all of our own mortality.

Just in case we forgot.

Arnall’s formula makes E=MC2 look like child’s play, so we won’t reproduce it here. Suffice it to say that experts view it with scorn.

“The third Monday of January — Blue Monday — is supposedly the most depressing day of the year,” Isabella Goldie, director of development and delivery at the London-based Mental Health Foundation, wrote in a blog Sunday “Except that it isn’t.

“As is now widely known, Blue Monday — a calculation based on factors such as weather conditions, debt levels, time since Christmas and time since failing our new year’s resolutions — was created in 2005 to sell summer holidays,” Goldie wrote. “Since then it has become a yearly PR event and primarily a device to promote things, often tenuously linked to improving our wellbeing. The ‘science’ behind it has been effectively debunked.”

Indeed, although #BlueMonday was trending on Twitter early Monday, most of the tweets were advertisements — for Florida vacations, hydrating creams, feel-good cookies and the like.

Goldie continued with a bit of depressing news for Arnall. Depression cannot be calculated by formula, she said. And the evidence clearly shows, she wrote, that “there is no such thing as the most depressing day of the year.”

Not that there’s absolutely nothing to Arnall’s idea. People’s moods can vary according to the season. Some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD — low mood caused by winter’s lack of sunlight.

And of course people’s spirits can be affected by the weather and the bills and the need to let the belt out yet another notch.

“It is right that there are certain times that we feel worse than at other times,” said Dr. Cosmo Hallstrom from the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London.

And, true enough, one of those times is Monday, he said — a day with higher rates of absenteeism than others due to weekend abuse of alcohol or drugs.

But he drew a distinction between low mood caused by events or bills or weather or other external factors and actual depression.

“Clinical depression,” he said, “is something else.”

Arnall, the inventor of the Blue Monday formula, did not respond to requests for comment from NBC News sent via both email and Twitter. Maybe he was off enjoying himself on some sunny isle. Or perhaps he was too depressed to come to the phone.

One can but speculate.

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