Blue Monday and mental health

Blue Monday and mental health

Already known as Blue Monday, the third Monday in January is considered the saddest day of the year. But is this real or just another mental health theory? Why this particular day and not another?

What is blue Monday?

The term was born in 2005 in Wales, in the south of the United Kingdom. Cliff Arnall, a professor at Cardiff University’s School of Psychology, claimed to have found a “mathematical formula for determining the saddest day of the year . ” A travel company hired you to determine the ideal day to plan your summer vacation. One thing led to another, and he ended up finding the most depressing day of the year.

This day is located in January, according to Cheater (2019), because there is a feeling of discouragement after the holidays. Many have debt problems, the days are short, it starts to get dark very soon and the low temperatures also affect them. In short, due to a series of common events for a large part of society, it is the day that can accumulate the most sadness.

As Pettengill (1993) points out, the Blue Monday theory is also associated with widespread social beliefs about mood patterns on working days. Friday is the day everyone awaits because the weekend begins. However, Monday represents the beginning of the work week and, therefore, in society, Mondays are associated with the most depressing day according to this author.

The Monday effect

Blue Monday and mental health

Pettengill (1993) points to a Boston University study in which they monitored the mental and physical health of some 5,000 people for more than 40 years. Their results showed that more than half of strokes took place on a Monday. In addition, another investigation was carried out in Japan whose results indicated that the rate of deaths by suicide in men was higher on Mondays. In fact, the proportion of suicides decreased throughout the week (Tadahiro et al, 2009).

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In addition to suicide and depression, the tangible effects of the day of the week (ie Monday) on health have also been consistently confirmed in cardiovascular health studies (Capodaglio, et al., 2010). Although the biological mechanisms have not been fully discovered, bidirectional relationships between stress, anxiety, and depression have been suggested to explain the frequent occurrence of cardiovascular events on Mondays.

According to Elfering et al. (2020), the Monday effect is also manifested in cognitive performance. Compared to other days of the week, Mondays, for example, carry a higher risk of missing cell abnormalities by diagnostic testers or errors by rail controllers. Many errors at work occur during routine tasks and point to lapses in attention or loss of working memory. This type of cognitive impairment in the workplace has been consistently shown to be a history of accidents during the commute to and from work.

Interestingly, Monday morning could be considered to be a time when people are fresh and in a good mood after having recovered from work over the weekend. However, the mood on Monday seems to be lower than on other working days and this difference seems to be quite universal. That lower mood seems to be accompanied by increased fatigue. On Monday morning fatigue levels are often higher because people have slept in later on the weekend and that “seems to come at a further cost by delaying the circadian rhythm, delaying sleep on Sunday night and increasing sleepiness and fatigue during the day.

Regarding mental health, the Monday effect in general, and Blue Monday, in particular, are associated with work-related stressors. In particular, adverse social work conditions have the potential to cause stress through a perceived threat to oneself and thus may divert attention from task accomplishment goals to self-protection goals that impede cognitive functioning.

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Is blue Monday real?

However, perhaps we should not take this Blue Monday hypothesis into so much consideration. Not because it’s not true (we don’t have enough evidence to confirm it), but because “it’s not particularly useful to predict Blue Monday and say there you have it”, as its creator, Cliff Arnal, put it. Self-fulfilling prophecies have a great impact on people’s mental health and stating that the third Monday of each year is the saddest will only invite people to feel that way, even if they have no reason to.

Joan Harvey, Ph.D. in psychology, points out that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can make people feel depressed during the winter months, stressing that linking depression to a particular day is “nonsense.” Stephen Buckley points out that while January can be difficult due to financial stress and the failure of New Year’s resolutions, these elements should not be confused with clinical depression, one of the great problems in mental health. “By suggesting that everyone can feel depressed in a single day, we risk underestimating the experiences of those living with serious illness.”



Cheater, S. (2019). Promoting positive mental health, International Journal of Health Promotion and Education, 57:2, 112-114.

Pettengil, G. (1993). An experimental study of the “Blue-Monday” hypothesis. Emporia State University. Vol. 22, p. 241-257.

Elfering, A., et al. (2020). The Monday Effect Revisited: A Diary and Sleep Actigraphy Study. Sleep Vigilance 4, 167–176.

Kim, E., et al. (2018). Blue Monday Is Real for Suicide: A Case-Control Study of 188,601 Suicides. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior.

Petter, O. (2020). Blue Monday: Is ‘the most depressing day’ of the year just a PR stunt? Independent.

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