Monday, 28 January 2013

Blue Monday

by Bea Wilkinson

Blue Nude by Pablo Picasso

Last Monday, 21st January was apparently the most depressing day of the year. In 2005, Dr.Cliff Arnall calculated that the Monday after the first full week of January is the most depressing day of the year. Dr. Arnall figured out that late January is extremely depressing for a number of reasons, including cold, unpredictable and gloomy weather conditions, post-Christmas debts and stress, abandoned New Year’s resolutions and lack of motivation or anything to really look forward to. Dr. Arnall even created an equation to justify his idea. It seems difficult to ignore such a comprehensive list of depressing items, but it appears there are just as many reasons to believe that Dr. Arnall’s ‘Blue Monday’ theory is simply pseudoscience and should be overlooked and ignored. 

Several years ago, now defunct television channel Sky Travel ran a PR campaign to try to boost sales and encourage people to take a holiday. Sky asked various academics, including Dr Arnall, asking them to put their name to a press release, suggesting that the third January of each year is just gloomy. Despite an elaborate mathematical equation, it seems as though the calculations are incorrect.

Ben Goldacre (The Guardian) who first pointed out the flaws of ‘Blue Monday’ in 2006, said that the equations "fail even to make mathematical sense on their own terms" and believes that the idea of ‘Blue Monday’ is purely harmful: "I am of the opinion that these equation stories – which appear with phenomenal frequency, and make up a significant proportion of the total science coverage in the UK – are corrosive, meaningless, empty, bogus nonsense that serve only to caricature and undermine science."
So, it looks as though Dr Arnall, the man also famous for discovering the perfect day for eating ice cream and devising a formula for the perfect long weekend, is in fact incorrect and we had no scientific reasoning to feel extra down on Monday. Now, it is probably no more than a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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