Monday, 23 July 2012
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.