Updated 16 January 2017

Why January is a depressing month for many people

Research says 'Januaworry' is real and there's a reason why you might feel pessimistic at the start of the year.

For many people January signals the start of new things. It’s the ideal time to shed a few kilograms, start a new project or to finally tick off your New Year’s resolutions.

But for some people January can be a month of despondency and sadness. In popular culture the concept is referred to as “Januaworry” – the financial strain after the festive season coupled with a feeling of pessimism.

Read: Can depression hit at any age?

Research from the University of Exeter’s Mood Disorders Centre (MDC), found that “some people negatively compare how they are now with what they used to be able to do or what they hoped they would have achieved by now, and this can lower their mood”.

Why we feel down

Ed Watkins, a professor of experimental and applied clinical psychology, says depressed mood is often exacerbated by a perception of a gap between how someone wants things to be and how they actually are. “These actual-ideal discrepancies are highlighted at this time of year.”

According to Dr Cliff Arnall, a UK psychologist from the University of Cardiff says “this realisation coincides with the dark clouds rolling in and the obligation to pay off Christmas credit card bills”.

Read: Pets a great help to people with depression

Many people also need some time to get back into the swing of things at work, and work-related dejection is common this time of year.

Symptoms of depression

Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness are commonly associated with depression, according to research from the Mayo Clinic. Recognise these symptoms and seek professional help. Other symptoms can include:

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Feeling worthless
  • Diminished cognitive function (e.g. problems with concentration)
  • Recurrent thoughts of death and suicide


Even though professional help should be your first point of call, there are some small adjustments you can make to your thought patterns that can help you through this difficult time:

1. Don't compare yourself with people around you: Your family, friends and colleagues all have different experiences. Their financial situation and their goals are different.

2. Remember that the calendar is arbitrary: January might be the first month of the year, but it's just a number. Don't expect things to miraculously get better, or at the same time have too high expectations of yourself simply because it's the start of a new year.

3. Be kind to yourself: Don't expect yourself to perform miracles, and be optimistic. If you feel depressed, address these feelings and get professional help.

Read more:

Excessive sweating linked to anxiety and depression

When should you see a psychologist?

Can you prevent depression?