Search icon


17th Jan 2022

Blue Monday is “reductive” to those suffering from mental illness

Tara Trevaskis Hoskin

Monday the 17th of January or Blue Monday was once hailed the most depressing day of the year, but not by scientists, it was coined by a travel company. 

It is the third Monday of the new year and due to factors such as cold weather and lingering debt from the Christmas period, today was deemed the bluest day of the year. This, however, has never been scientifically proven. 

In 2004 psychologist Cliff Arnall came up with the “equation” when working for a travel agents, Sky Travel, who published the findings in a press release. The equation has since been disproven, but the focus on Blue Monday somewhat remains.

But using terms like the ‘most depressing day of the year’ runs the risk of trivialising mental illness and missing the mark for those actually suffering from depression. 

“The impact of that minimises everyone’s subjective experience of mental health which is theirs alone,” says Stephen McBride, Director of Services at Aware. “So someone’s experience of depression might be most keenly felt in June or July because that’s their own experience of it.

“It creates the idea in our heads of ‘I’m supposed to be feeling that way on that day’ and if I’m not, what does that mean to me?

“It’s the reductive message of it too, that it’s more keenly felt on the third Monday of the year. What does that mean for all the other Mondays and Tuesdays and so on?”

Blue Monday has largely been a ploy by marketing companies to encourage consumers to buy things that they are led to believe will make them happier.

One of the factors in the equation that was said to equal to Blue Monday was the cold weather. Although cold weather and lack of vitamin D from the sun can have an impact on everyone’s mood, it is very different from something that a lot of people suffer from; seasonal affective disorder. 

 “Seasonal affective disorder is very real to people and that is related to a lack of light with people’s brain functioning,” says Stephen. “Neurochemically, they’re impacted by the lack of light in their life.

“It is a mental health condition and diagnosed by a psychiatrist. It’s very much a real condition.”

Blue Monday has long been debunked, but it still adds to misconceptions about serious mental illnesses as it markets them as something that can be fixed with a simple purchase. 

“The idea that people may feel blue and it can be attributed to a specific day in the year risks minimising the true and real experience of depression for people in the world,” Stephen says. 

“We believe recovery is possible, but it is a very debilitating illness for those who suffer from it, and their loved ones.” 

Aware offers support for those suffering from depression through their helpline on 1800 8048 48. You can find out more here: aware. ie