16 Apr 2015
What's the happiest day of the week?
Do you ever get the Monday blues? Or notice that you’re happier on the weekends, without fail?
We all have different patterns and routines, and we react differently to each day of the week, but studies have found there’s a general trend about which parts of the week are worst for most of us.
We took a look at the mood ratings from our Exist users to see how we stack up against the norms and found some interesting stats.
Days of the week
The general rules that come from studies into mood based on the day of the week show that we think Mondays are terrible, but they’re generally no worse than any other weekday (except Friday afternoons). And most of us love weekends—but no weekend day outshines any other.
So the biggest split is really between weekdays and weekends. No particular day can take the rap for bringing us down, on average.
Mondays aren’t so bad.
If anyone asked you which day of the week is the worst, you’d probably say Monday, right? On average, most of us would.
The funny thing is, studies of moods across the week have shown that Mondays don’t actually tend to make us feel worse. One study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology showed that when remembering the past week, participants generally “remembered” a low point on Monday—even though when asked on that same Monday how they felt, they rated it no lower than any other weekday.
Although Monday moods might not be as bad as we expect (or “remember”), Mondays are pretty bad for our health. Heart attacks are more likely to occur on Mondays, unless that Monday is a national holiday. So you could say (as the study I linked above does) that more heart attacks occur on the first workday of the week.
Though this health risk is generally attributed to the stress of returning to work after the weekend, one study of alcohol consumption found a different potential explanation. The study examined the blood pressure of people in France and Northern Ireland throughout the week, and found that in French people, who tended to drink around the same amount throughout the week, their blood pressure was relatively stable as well. In the Irish drinkers, who consumed 66% of their weekly alcohol intake on Fridays and Saturdays, their blood pressure was highest on Mondays and tapered off during the week.
Monday may be the return to work that many of us dread, but the stress of work seems to carry right through until Friday night. One study of stress found that all weekdays tend to carry a similar stress-related bad mood when compared to the good moods we have on weekends.
We love weekends.
Just like weekdays, our weekend days seem to generate better moods regardless of the exact day of the week. In fact, it seems that the difference in moods and health is more about not being at work than how much we love Saturdays or Sundays. Which means if you don’t have a typical workweek, you might find your moods don’t match up with the general rules.
Just as most of us feel worse during the week and have higher health risks, weekends tend to make us feel fewer aches and pains, as well as enjoying ourselves more. A study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that this “weekend effect” is largely associated with the extra autonomy we have on weekends.
Unlike during the workweek, on weekends most of us can choose what activities we participate in and we can spend time with our friends and families. And it doesn’t even matter what job you have—the study found that people with interesting, high status jobs were still happier on weekends. The results weren’t affected by gender, salary, education or industry, marital status, or even age.
Pretty much everyone loves the weekend.
One of the study’s authors, Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, said weekends are when we find time to fill our basic needs:
Far from frivolous, the relatively unfettered time on weekends provides critical opportunities for bonding with others, exploring interests and relaxing — basic psychological needs that people should be careful not to crowd out with overwork.
This study also found that people felt more competent on weekends than they did during the week.
So the combination of feeling competent, connected to others, and being able to choose how we spend our time leads us to enjoy weekends more than weekdays.
How Exist users compare
Not long after we launched Exist we built in a mood tracking feature. It’s super simple: each night we send you an email at 9pm asking you to rate your day. You reply with a rating from 1–5 and a note about what happened. A rating of 1 means your day was terrible, while a rating of 5 equates to a perfect day.
3/5 is an average, or “just okay”, kind of day. Here’s what the email looks like, with a button for each score:
We were surprised to find that our users love this little feature. It’s one of the most popular parts of Exist, and we find a lot of our users reply to their mood email every single night.
We still have a small userbase but we went through our mood data to see what interesting stats we could find. So here’s how our users stack up against the findings of these studies.
We also love weekends.
In North America, UK, and Europe, Monday is the worst day of the week.
This isn’t imagined, either. Although you can reply to your mood email the next day, most users rate their mood before the day is over so this rating shows how they feel about Monday on Monday night.
The UK's Monday is the lowest with a 2.79 average (the world overall average is 3.53), and North America handles it best at 3.28.
Australians buck the trend by having their worst day on Sunday (3.1), dreading that Monday morning (which ends up turning out slightly better than Sunday at 3.2).
Although Sundays should be one of our favourite days according to the study results I mentioned earlier, rating your mood at 9pm could mean the dread of Monday morning is creeping up by the time our Australian Exist users rate their Sundays.
And what about our best days? In the UK Tuesdays top the chart at 3.21 on average, while Europeans love Thursdays, rating them 3.47 on average.
And while they might not get rated the highest overall, our correlations data shows weekends are the biggest happiness predictor among our users, which falls in line with the study results we looked at earlier.
We like being active.
Our second most common correlation with good moods is how much activity we’re doing. Exist users tend to be happier when they walk more. Foursquare check-ins also rate highly as a predictor of good moods, so it must be something about getting out of the house that boosts our moods.
Steps, weekends, and check-ins all correlate highly across different countries. There seems to be a consistent formula for happiness—not working, getting out of the house, visiting venues and socialising.
North American users are happiest.
US and Canada are the happiest out of everyone, with an average mood rating of 3.63 (the world average is 3.53).
Unfortunately our UK users are well and truly the least happy of all our users. We’re sending you all some sunshine right now!
US users find happiness in unique ways.
There is a strong negative correlation for our North American users between mood and using Exist. Perhaps given our American users are more likely to be happy, they’re also more likely to obsess about being unhappy—by looking at their mood data in Exist?
Our US users also stand out in a couple of other ways: they’re more likely to tweet when they’re happy, whereas the rest of our users (including Josh and myself) tend to be in a worse mood if we’re tweeting a lot. And finally, music affects users differently depending on the country. Listening to music was more likely to correlate with a good mood for Australian and British users, but with a bad mood for US and European users.
Bad weather makes us all grouchy.
High cloud cover, strong winds, and precipitation were the most likely external factors to make users unhappy (aside from the lack of weekends). This is true regardless of location, so I guess we can all agree bad weather is a pain.
We can’t predict mood ratings perfectly based on generalisations, but it’s certainly fun to see what the data says about us in aggregate. I’m looking forward to exploring our mood data again in years to come to see what a bigger data set can tell us about users around the world and what affects our mood.
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