You'll see it everywhere today, in stories seeded by tourism companies and charities: it is "Blue Monday", the most depressed day of the year. It's bullshit, Ben Goldacre reminds us, originally devised by Sky Travel with the help of Dr. Cliff Arnall, then of Cardiff University. Arnall is the sort of academic who cracks jokes about getting checks from companies mentioned in conjunction with his name.
I reviewed the evidence from over 30 studies over 130 years on the subject last year, in an act of performance anality. Some find more suicide in spring and early summer, some in spring and autumn, some in summer only, some find no pattern at all. Many have sampled representative individuals from a population and followed their mood over a year, finding: more misery in summer, more in spring, more in winter, or no peak at all. Antidepressant prescriptions have been tracked a few times (they peak in spring, or in February, May and October). GP consultations for depression peak in May-June, and in November-January (you get the same pattern with osteoarthritis consultations, oddly). Admissions for depression peak in autumn, or spring and summer, while 8 studies found no seasonal variation at all. So Blue Monday does not put a catchy name on a simple human truth: in fact, it only really shows us how easy it is to take an idea that people think they already know, and then sell it back to them. Even if it’s entirely false.Next post