‘Beat Blue Monday’ and the most miserable day of the year

Someone called Cliff Arnall has come up with a equation for the most depressing day of the year.  It goes like this:

1/8W+(D-d) 3/8xTQ MxNA.

Where W is weather, D is debt – minus the money (d) due on January’s pay day – and T is the time since Christmas.
Q is the period since the failure to quit a bad habit, M stands for general motivational levels and NA is the need to take action and do something about it.

I was rather amused by this the first time I read about it.  The Guardian had an article all about the best songs to listen to on the most miserable day of the year.  But it’s all bollocks, so much so that it is worthy of a diatribe from Bad Scientist writer Ben Goldacre, who appears to be a longtime adversary of Mr Arnall.  The same story was wheeled out in 2005 and 2006
The Samitarians got sucked this time and have launched Beat Blue Monday as a money earning drive, allegedly with Mr Arnall and a PR company taking their cut.

So when is the most depressing day of the year? If we assume that people who commit suicide are a reliable indicator of misery, then these two papers are relevant:

The Office of National Statistics have published a cheerful paper entitled Mortality from suicide and drug-related poisoning by day of the week in England and Wales, 1993–2002 An increased proportion of suicides occurred on Mondays, while the single day on which the largest number of suicides occurred was 1st January 2000, a Saturday.  The increased numbers of deaths would on a Monday and especially on 1st January would suggest a theory that people are more suicidal with the move into a new time period.

More light is shed by another interesting article which considers the frequency of suicide by day, day of the week, month, and lunar phase by studying suicide occurrence among residents of Sacramento County, CA, during the period from 1925 to 1983. It found suicide occurrence varying substantially by time of day, with the fewest suicide deaths occurred during the early morning hours. Suicides occurred most frequently on Monday for both males and females and for most age groups. Furthermore, variation by month followed no consistent pattern by gender, age, years of the study. Suicide occurrence did not vary by lunar phase.

There aren’t so many werewolves after all.

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