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'Blue Monday': Is it really the most depressing day?

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'Blue Monday': Is it really the most depressing day?

'blue monday' depression myth persists, despite lack of science 

Ryan Flanagan, Web Journalist, CTVNews.ca

With a nip in the air, two-thirds of winter still to go and no more super blood wolf moons to look forward to in the near future, is it any wonder that today has been dubbed the most depressing day of the year?

The third Monday in January is widely referred to as Blue Monday – the day when seasonal affective disorder and general winter blahs may be at their peak.

Despite catching the popular imagination, Blue Monday has little to no scientific backing. It was conceived in 2005 by self-described “psychologist, life coach and happiness consultant” Cliff Arnall at the request of a British travel company.

Arnall claimed to have used a mathematical equation to find the saddest day of the year, albeit with one major caveat. His calculations were based on Northern Hemisphere weather data, allowing the travel agency to suggest that taking a trip south of the equator was the only surefire path to mid-January bliss.

That’s right. The people who created Blue Monday said the best way to avoid it was to help push them into the green.

Scientific reaction to the idea was negative, with many academics deriding Arnall’s calculations as pseudoscience or worse.

“People have to stop giving into this myth,” Toronto-based psychologist Oren Amitay said Monday on CTV News Channel.

“It was a fraud perpetrated by a psychologist hired by a travel agency.”

Arnall later appeared to regret spawning the Blue Monday movement, telling U.K. newspaper The Independent last year that he never intended for people to form negative connotations about the day.

Instead, Arnall told the newspaper, he meant to use Blue Monday to encourage people to bust out of their seasonal funks, calling January “a great time to make those big decisions for the year ahead.” It should be noted that Arnall made these comments after partnering with a different travel agency which was looking to hawk its low-cost flights to adventurous destinations.

While there is no clear evidence that the third Monday in January is inherently more depressing than any other day, seasonal affective disorder is a widely recognized condition which affects people more often during the winter months.

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, women, young people and people who live far from the equator are more likely than others to develop seasonal affective disorder.

A University of Toronto study estimated that the disorder affects up to five per cent of Canadians.

Many more people believe they have it, with some studies showing that as many as 25 per cent of people might self-report seasonal affective disorder. Most of these claims are false, Amitay said.

“The winter, especially in Canada … does make people feel blue, but that’s different from an actual clinical diagnosis,” he said.

Amitay said people looking to ward off the effects of seasonal affective disorder should focus on increasing their physical activity and organizing social events.

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