Since 2005, every third Monday of January is widely considered the most depressing day of the year. Typically referred to as “Blue Monday”, the day has spurred on some of the biggest marketing ploys, eager on capitalising off your depression. But where is the science to back it up?

Interestingly, there is none. The term was first publicised in 2005 by a UK travel company through a press release that had claimed that with help from a psychologist – Dr. Cliff Arnall – they had calculated the most depressing day of the year. The formula considered factors like weather, money and lack of motivation as some of the reasons why this particular day affected people. With these factors, they could calculate which day people would be most likely to book a holiday.

While the research has been debunked by scientists, that hasn’t stopped the term solidifying itself in modern culture. Every year, brands and companies use the day as a means of turning a profit – and we fall for it.

However, it can’t be denied that the research is based in some truth. January can prove to be a difficult month for many due to limited funds, the post-Christmas slump and dealing with darker evenings. For people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), symptoms of depression peak during the same season each year – most commonly winter.

Why is Blue Monday harmful?

Discourse surrounding mental health has undoubtedly improved in recent years, but there is still work to be done to erase the stigma attached to illnesses like depression and anxiety. Linking of low moods – which everyone experiences – to clinical depression trivialises the hardships that come with having a mental disorder.

According to Stephen Buckley, the head of information at the mental health charity Mind, “One in six of us will experience depression at some time in our lives, and it can have devastating effects on every part of our lives,” he told The Independent.

One of the positive things that can come out of Blue Monday is spurring further discussion on how mental health impacts people and how we can better support them. But, as for the concept itself, even Dr. Cliff Arnall regrets coining the term.

Aisha Mohamed