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Linda Wasmer Andrews

Are Monday Mornings Really That Awful?

The truth about Monday morning blues, suicides, and heart attacks.

Monday Morning Blues?

In one study by researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia, people were asked how they were feeling at the moment once a day for seven days. Then on the eighth day, they were asked how they remembered feeling on each day of the previous week. Although there wasn’t much difference in actual moods reported from day to day, people recalled hitting a low point on Monday. This suggests that their memories were biased by their beliefs. They expected Mondays to be lousy.

Monday stands out as the day for returning to work after the weekend. We tend to associate weekends with fun and work with drudgery, regardless of whether that’s really the case. So we may be primed to remember things that confirm this belief and to ignore things that disconfirm it, such as enjoying catching up with coworkers on Monday morning.

It’s easy to make poor, unloved Monday the scapegoat for the whole week. But if you take a more realistic view of the pros and cons of the day, Monday morning might seem a little less grim.

Mondays and suicide

The picture gets a bit fuzzier when you look beyond normal mood swings to more disordered moods. Several studies based on data up through the 1990s showed that suicide rates peaked on Mondays. However, a study that examined all suicide deaths in the United States from 2000 through 2004 found something different: a peak on Wednesdays.

The reason for this discrepancy isn’t entirely clear. But researchers have a theory: Today’s 24/7 social connectedness by Internet and phone may mean that people contemplating suicide aren’t as isolated over the weekend as they once were—hence, a lower risk when the weekend is over.

Why Wednesdays instead? Lead researcher Augustine Kposowa, a sociology professor at the University of California, Riverside, has suggested one possibility: Job stress builds up by hump day. For someone already in emotional crisis, the stress and pressure could start to feel like it’s too much to handle. Anyone feeling so overwhelmed that suicide seems like the only answer should reach out for help without delay, regardless of what day it is.

Mondays and heart attacks

Numerous studies have also shown a spike in cardiovascular risks on Monday. This day sees more than its share of heart attacks, strokes, and sudden cardiac deaths. The easy explanation is that the stress of returning to work is enough to give some people a heart attack. And in fact, one study showed that the peak in heart attacks disappeared on Mondays that were holidays.

The fact that a similar peak has also been observed in retirees doesn’t necessarily negate this explanation. Old habits die hard. After retirement, many people may still think of Mondays as the time to tackle a new project or buckle down harder on an existing one.

However, another factor may play a role, too: The Monday effect could also be the cardiac hangover from weekend partying. A study found that, in Ireland, where binge drinking on the weekends was common, blood pressure rose on Mondays. But in France, where alcohol intake was spaced more evenly throughout the week, blood pressure didn’t show this pattern.

So Mondays may be hazardous to your heart health. But stress management and weekend moderation could bring the risk down. Ultimately, Mondays, like other days, are what you make them.

Linda Wasmer Andrews is a health and psychology writer based in Milwaukee. Follow her on Twitter. Find her on Facebook. Visit her online.