Marketing has been blamed for many things, obesity, anorexia, the nation’s debt, body image issues and even, more recently, the UK’s low output, but it seems one thing marketers can be fingered for is the concept that Blue Monday – which traditionally falls on the third Monday of January – is the most depressing day of the year.
Despite references dating back to the 1830s, where Blue Monday referred to the hungover state of the labour workforce after a weekend spent boozing, the January phenomenon was actually invented in 2005 by Sky Travel as part of a marketing campaign designed to get consumers to book summer holidays to beat off the January blues.
At the time, the company claimed to have scientific research to back up its claims, including an elaborate equation of weather + time since Christmas x debt level + motivational levels x time since failure of last new year resolution.
Unsurprisingly, the equation was debunked and labelled ‘pseudoscience’, however, that seems to have been forgotten over the years and now it is as much a part of January as giving up booze and smoking and going on a diet.
But Dean Burnett, a doctor of neuroscience and Cardiff University lecturer has waded into the debate. He told the i newspaper: “There are so many reasons to believe it’s nonsense. Firstly, the equation wasn’t the result of some psychological study by a reputable lab, but conducted by a travel company, who then fished around for a psychologist to put his name to it, to make it seem credible.”
He added that the equation itself is “scientifically ridiculous” as “it combines things that have no quantifiable way of being combined,” he says. “Debt level, time since Christmas, weather, motivation – the equation combines all these things, but that’s not possible. “It’s like a maths problem that goes ‘43 – 12 + the colour red x mouldy cheese – the theme songs from Friends = ?’ It’s impossible to solve this because all the individual components are so different and have no compatibility with each other.”
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