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Blue Monday: Is January 6 Really The Most Depressing Day Of The Year?

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JANUARY 6
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Today is apparently the worst, if an analysis of tweets is an accurate representation of the collective mood.

The drinks company Upbeat developed something called the "Upbeat Barometer," which analyzes tweets daily for negative words and phrases to give an idea of happiness levels in Britain. The findings of the barometer -- which involved analysis of more than 2 million tweets from the last three years -- shows that "Blue Monday" falls on today's date, Jan. 6. The analysis found that guilt-related tweets are typically five times higher and weather complaints are six times higher than normal on the first Monday of January.

"Blue Monday," calculated using a formula developed by psychologist Cliff Arnall for a PR campaign in 2005, is supposed to fall on the third Monday of January (so this year, that would be Jan. 20). But according to Upbeat, the most miserable day might actually be today.

But is there any science to the idea of a "Blue Monday" in the first place? The Guardian's Pete Etchells points out that no studies back up the idea of "Blue Monday," and that research actually shows different dates for peaks in depression, with some data even showing that there's no seasonal variation at all for depression. (For instance, TIME reported in 2008 that Internet searches for depression are actually highest in mid-November.)

Etchells writes:

So this latest incarnation is worrying for a number of reasons. While at first it comes across as a re-packaging of earlier guff about Blue Monday for the sake of promoting a product, on closer inspection it appears to be more insidious in nature. We’re all bored of nonsense pseudoscientific equations now. But analysing Twitter activity is new and different. Upbeat has changed the game, and the press release comes across in a way that suggests that somehow, there is a clear way to quantify how "depressing" a given day is. But it is based on an assumption that has never been tested – that tweets are an accurate reflection of the mental wellbeing of the entire population -- so it's impossible to know how meaningful or informative the research actually is.

But even if there is no actual scientific basis to the idea of a "most miserable day," Dr. Angelos Halaris, a psychiatrist from Loyola University Medical Center, explained in a statement that the first Monday after the holidays can be difficult for people going back to work after a period of time with family and friends. In addition, the short days of winter could exacerbate seasonal affective disorder.

"With less exposure to light in the winter months, many people become depressed," Halaris said in a statement. "Those susceptible to SAD are affected even more so."

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