Monday, 23 July 2012

Blue Monday does not exist

The weekend is over and a long slog of five days work awaits. No wonder most of us hate Mondays. But are we really at our most miserable at the start of the week, as the Blue Monday myth suggests? A new study conducted in the US claims not.

Arthur Stone and his colleagues made use of data collected by Gallup in 2008. Over 340,000 US citizens were interviewed over the telephone during that year and one of the questions was about their mood the day before. They were asked to say "yes or no" whether they'd felt enjoyment or happiness for a lot of the day, and whether they'd felt worry, sadness, stress or anger for a lot of the day.

A clear pattern emerged, with people reporting far more positive mood and far less negative mood on Saturdays and Sundays, compared with weekdays - an effect that diminished with age and with retirement. Although the contrast with weekdays for them was weaker, retirees still reported being happier at weekends, perhaps because of the availability of friends and family at that time. The pattern of better mood at weekends also held regardless of gender, and regardless of whether interviewees had a partner or not.

Although not as dramatic as the weekend effect, there was also evidence of enhanced mood on Fridays, relative to other days of the week - supporting popular belief in a "Thank God It's Friday!" effect. But comparing mood on Mondays against mood on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays revealed no evidence of a dip.

"Despite our global beliefs about lousy Mondays, we conclude that this belief should, in general, be abandoned," the researchers said. "The perception of Blue Mondays is likely prevalent due to the extreme contrast in mood from Sunday to Monday, even though there is no real difference in mood with Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday."

Stone and his team criticised earlier research on this topic for relying on small samples, often made up of student participants. But this new study also had its limitations, as they acknowledged. The methodology was cross-sectional, in that participants only rated their mood at one point in time. This means there's a possibility of a sampling bias - there may have been something different about people who agreed to participate on some days of the week compared with others. Also people may have misremembered their mood from the day before. And the simple yes/no format for the questioning was unusual - studies of this kind usually deploy a sliding scale for answers. On the plus side, the sample was massive and allowed for the first ever examination of demographic factors in relation to day of the week effects on mood.

Are you convinced by this research, or are you certain that your mood is at its lowest on Mondays?


Arthur Stone, Stefan Schneider, and James K. Harter (2012). Day-of-week mood patterns in the United States: On the existence of ‘Blue Monday’, ‘Thank God it's Friday’ and weekend effects. Journal of Positive Psychology DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2012.691980

Post written by Christian Jarrett for the BPS Research Digest.


Joe Hobbs - Recetas Faciles y Rapidas said...

Before he did not believe that telephone surveys, etc, will work but after a great research on my part I have come to the conclucion that if they are very effective because all over the world are used. If the survey resulted that people were sad, etc, is because it is so, there is another way of interpreting things. I think people have their reasons for not being happy, the sadness show much.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes it does.

Unknown said...

As I interprete the results Mondays are as 'bad' as every work day except Friday because Friday marks the start of the weekend. Did they control for how people work? I mean there are people (not too few I guess) who work different schedules like for example having Mondays off to compensate for Saturday work or similar. I would expect these people to rate Mondays as good as Sundays.

Mac Arts said...

Thanks for this article Christian! I can see how people rate Mondays as more bluesy considering it's contrast with Sunday.
On another level, it would be interesting to see why the vast majority of people are not really enjoying what they do during weekdays, and are apparently not doing enough about it.
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