Blue Monday is bullshit

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.

Tell me, how do I feel? [Bad Science]


  1. You can buy an autographed, limited series “Goodbye, Blue Monday” illustration from the Vonnegut museum in Indianapolis:

    1. My reaction to that headline was one of rage until I realised this wasn’t about New Order.  Saying Blue Monday is shit is blasphemous. 

        1. I, too, was initially bewildered at the thought that anyone could dislike New Order and Blue Monday. Such great music.

          1. Gerry and the Holograms another Manchester band, this was released a few years before Blue Monday, but no member of New Order will admit to ever hearing it.  The voice at the beginning is Frank Zappa who was playing it on a radio show he hosted in 1979.

  2. I *do* get depressed in summer, but I always figured it was the searing heat and hatred of birthdays.

    1. I’m filled with horror as the days grow longer and the long nights of winter slip away.

      1. I do like my job.  But wish I had a job that I can do from home.  I like to lounge around in the morning and not feel so compelled to meet with a hundred people and waste all my energy and patience on that.  I’d rather spend my energy writing code and being creative.

  3. I will admit I undergo a particular brand of slight melancholy as winter starts to fade, due to wanting to get out and explore but knowing I must spend the coming spring chained to a desk.

    But today, today is just a perfectly normal Monday.

  4. If Blue Monday were a real thing, this would cheer you right up –

  5. Once again, it’s probably influenced by where I live, but since it’s currently clear as a bell and 80 degrees outside, I felt perfectly chipper as I stepped out of the gym this morning.  Everyone else in my family is in bed with one bug or another, but I’ve a spring in my step and a song in my heart this fine day.

    That song, however, is decidedly not the major-key version of “Losing My Religion.”

  6. Bullshit though it may be I still got hit pretty hard.  The factors about Christmas, resolutions, and holiday debt don’t really apply to me, so the calculation is suspect, but I’ll for damn sure be paying it more mind in the future.  Really though, I’m sure it had more to do with the solid week of rain we had.  Though I was familiar with the song, I never knew this was an actual thing until now.  Except mine was a blue weekend.  guess I’m ahead of the curve ;_;

    1. Lauren
      I did that same thing recently.  Terrible day.  Life gets brighter soon.

      Also – don’t listen to too much old New Order right now.  I love their stuff, but now may not be the time.

      Denver, CO

  7. Cliff Arnall is not a doctor, either medical or academic. He lets people call him that and doesn’t correct them. He didn’t correct people calling him a professor of psychology either, and his link to Cardiff University is tenuous (he had a class in a nightschool that used some university premises – you know, like Homer Simpson did once – up until around 2006).

    He and I have a peculiar history. He’s my nominated nemesis.

  8. Just read two books: Joe Bennett – How Bullshit Works and Beyond Bullsh*t: Straigt-Talk at Work by Samuel A. Culbert and you might find more in the academic literature On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt.

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