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Do the ‘Valentine’s Day Blues’ Exist? A Legacy Report on a Purported Psychological Phenomenon


Abstract and Figures

The ‘Valentine’s Day Blues’ is an enduring concept rooted in pop psychology that has unfortunately received little empirical attention. On this point, it is commonly assumed that the increasing commodification of romance plus the social trappings of Valentine’s Day can elicit stresses similar to those evoked by traditional holidays. Thus, women’s greater experience of ‘mattering’ and greater tendencies towards depression and rumination should place women at a greater risk of ‘Valentine’s Day Blues’ than men. Accordingly, when no Valentine’s Day gift is received such distress likely lasts longer in women than in men in addition to being stronger in general. These hypotheses were tested based on the data of 2,070 participants in a 2004 consumer sentiment survey who completed a 34-item online questionnaire within four weeks following Valentine’s Day. This questionnaire addressed anxiety, depression, rumination, and social anxiety as derived from existing instruments. Rasch scaling analyses found that men and women’s generalized depression (i.e., a combination of the four aforementioned item types) was greater for those not receiving a gift relative to that expressed by those who did receive a Valentine’s Day gift. However, while men rebounded after two weeks, women’s greater depression continued after three weeks. Of greatest clinical concern are 30-40 year olds, and those least affected were respondents over 40 years of age. Keywords: Emotion regulation, holiday depression, pop psychology, Rasch scaling, stress reactions
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Journal of
Rense Lange
Instituto Politécnico de Gestão
e Tecnologia, Portugal
Integrated Knowledge Systems, USA
Ilona Jerabek
Psychtests AIM, Canada
Neil Dagnall
Manchester Metropoliltan
University, UK
SUBMITTED February 5, 2022
ACCEPTED February 9, 2022
PUBLISHED May 22, 2022
Creative Commons License 4.0.
CC-BY-NC. Attribution required.
No Commercial use.
Do the ‘Valentines Day Blues’ Exist?
A Legacy Report on a Purported
Psychological Phenomenon
New research reveals that the ‘Valentine’s Day Blues’ is not an urban myth but a real
form of situational depression. It can aect people of dierent ages or gender who do
not receive gis, although men seemingly rebound faster than women.
e ‘Valentine’s Day Blues’ is an enduring concept rooted in pop psychology that has
unfortunately received little empirical attention. On this point, it is commonly assumed
that the increasing commodication of romance plus the social trappings of Valentine’s
Day can elicit stress similar to that evoked by traditional holidays. is view might predict
that women’s greater experience of ‘mattering’ and greater tendencies toward depression
and rumination should place women at a greater risk of ‘Valentine’s Day Blues’ than men.
Accordingly, when no Valentine’s Day gi is received such distress likely lasts longer in
women than in men in addition to being stronger in general. ese hypotheses were
tested based on the data of 2,070 participants in a 2004 consumer sentiment survey
who completed a 34-item online questionnaire within four weeks following Valentine’s
Day. is questionnaire addressed (a) anxiety, (b) depression, (c) rumination, and (d)
social anxiety as derived from existing instruments. Rasch scaling analyses found that
men and women’s generalized depression (i.e., a combination of the four aforementioned
item types) was greater for those not receiving a gi relative to that expressed by those
who did receive a Valentine’s Day gi. However, while men rebounded aer two weeks,
women’s greater depression continued aer three weeks. Of greatest clinical concern are
30-to-40– year olds, whereas those least aected were respondents over 40 years of age.
Holiday depression, invented syndromes, pop psychology, Rasch scaling, stress reactions
Popular (pop) psychology is an umbrella term for psy-
chological ideologies, therapies, or other techniques that
gain popularity through mass or social media and thus
are deemed credible by the general population. An ad-
verse trend in this context is the rise of health scares via
‘invented disorders and syndromes.’ Along with criticisms
(e.g., Allsopp et al., 2019) levied at mainstream psychol-
ogy and psychiatry for ill-dened diagnostic criteria in the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-
5, American Psychiatric Association, 2015), the penchant
for pop psychologists, activist scientists and clinicians,
or other social inuencers to propose new, or expand on
existing, biomedical conditions, disorders, or syndromes
has promoted a culture of ‘medicalization’ (Frances, 2013;
Lack & Rousseau, 2020), i.e., an increase in ‘mentally ill’
individuals or the pathologizing of ‘normal’ behaviors.
is can cause an inux of new patients who are exposed
to unnecessary or even counterproductive medications or
therapeutics (for discussions, see Bradford, 2010; Frances,
2013; Kirschner, 2013; Pickersgill, 2014; Roy et al., 2019).
One potential example of an invented syndrome is the
phenomenon known colloquially as the ‘Valentine’s Day
Blues.’ e authors became intimately aware of this reput-
ed aiction during research projects with dierent online
dating services (e.g., Houran & Lange, 2004, 2010; Houran
et al., 2004, 2005; Lange et al., 2004b, 2005). Part of that
prior work supported product development and marketing
initiatives for these websites. is allowed us to conduct
focus groups and consumer sentiment surveys with indi-
viduals seeking romantic relationships. Interestingly, there
was a consistent though anecdotal pattern to the type of
feedback that single (i.e., unpartnered) adults shared dur-
ing the Valentine’s Day season. e following narrative is
highly representative of the emotional state described by
many such individuals:
I didn’t have a valentine this past Valentine’s
Day—as usual. I’ve never had a valentine or been
someone’s valentine. I felt nothing. I felt numb. I felt
full from eating too much chocolate. I cried when I
got home. Valentine’s Day . . . the one day set aside
in the entire year where lovers arm to each other
in front of the world that they love and cherish and
adore one another. I wanted this desperately. (Lily, a
43-year-old female member of an online dating site,
personal communication, 2004)
is raises the question of whether poignant and dis-
quieting experiences like this are typical of most contem-
porary singles or if select cases are being dramatized to
create what essentially amounts to an urban myth.
e popular view argues that the commercial and soci-
etal norms surrounding St. Valentine’s Day in Westernized
societies have a detrimental impact on the psychological
well-being of adult singles not involved in romantic rela-
tionships and/or those who do not receive tokens of love
on this holiday (see e.g., DB&MH, n.d.; Homan & Davis,
2014; Patrick, 2022). Pressure to conform to these norms
might have credence as evidenced by recent statistics on
Valentine-related festivities. For example, Americans are
estimated to spend $23.9 billion for associated merchan-
dise in 2022 (National Retail Federation & Prosper Insights
and Analytics, 2022). Trend analyses show that consum-
ers purchase approximately 1 billion greeting cards each
year (McLaughlin, 1997) excluding packaged valentines for
classroom exchanges by children (Greeting Card Associa-
tion, 2019), 58 million pounds of chocolate (George, 2022),
and 250 million roses (Society for American Florists, n.d.).
Zayas et al. (2017) demonstrated the importance of
Valentine’s Day on perception and expectation in a large,
diverse US sample. eir ndings indicated that as Valen-
tine’s Day neared, evaluations of roses and chocolates (but
not a comparison object) were evaluated more positively.
Further consistent with societal depictions of Valentine’s
Day as romantic, another study using sentiment analy-
sis—i.e., a technique that extracts opinions and feelings
through the analysis of text—found that tweets about Val-
entine’s Day mostly focused on emotions and material as-
pects of the celebration versus sexual elements (Sansone
et al., 2021). But what happens when the owers, candy,
and cards are not forthcoming and there is no romantic
partner in the picture to provide them?
Although there is little academic research specically
relating to Valentine’s Day, some studies on mental health
during holiday periods are available. For example, one re-
view documented increases in dysphoric moods following
holidays (Friedberg, 1990), and Sobel et al. (1998) similarly
found a signicant increase in emergency contacts at a ru-
ral mental health clinic coinciding with holidays. Increases
in deliberate (but non-fatal) self-harming behavior at a
London hospital on Valentine’s Day did not reach statistical
signicance in one study (Culham et al., 1993), but Daven-
port and Birtle (1990) reported that the rates of parasui-
cide among adolescents on this holiday were signicantly
increased. Finally, Baier (1988) described ‘holiday blues
syndrome’ as a situational stress reaction related to social
demands, unmet expectations, and biological stressors
such as lack of sleep.
Accordingly, her proposed interventions involved re-
ducing the specic stressors activated by the holidays and
promoting and mobilizing the support and coping mecha-
nisms already in operation for an individual. ese sugges-
tions echo Goin (2002), who discussed how the ‘holiday
blues’ have great potential for being associated with an-
niversary reactions. Unfortunately, the sociocultural milieu
surrounding certain holidays can make it quite dicult for
individuals like Lily in the earlier quote to eectively en-
act Baier’s (1988) proposals. As we review next, Valentine’s
Day certainly seems to be a prime event given its strong
psychological and societal reinforcements.
St. Valentine’s Day as it is currently practiced is a mod-
ern, commercial holiday with vague origins (Schmidt, 1993),
although many sources suggest that it has roots in the pa-
gan culture of ancient Rome combined with later Christian
and secular modications (for overviews, see e.g., Encyclo-
paedia Britannica, 2021;, 2022; Nelson, 2020).
In particular, February marked the beginning of spring and
a time of purication for ancient Romans. is involved cel-
ebrations of the fertility festival, Lupercalia, commencing
February 15th. Young women practiced the ritual of plac-
VALENTINE’S DAY BLUES Rense Lange, Ilona Jerabek, Neil Dagnall
ing their names in an urn from which bachelors would se-
lect the year’s companion. Oen these pairings resulted in
marriage. Later, in A.D. 498, Pope Gelasius declared Febru-
ary 14th as St. Valentine’s Day, and the Roman lottery sys-
tem—frowned upon as an un-Christian practice—became
e problem is that there were at least three dierent
saints who went by the name Valentine or Valentinus, each
of whom have his own martyrdom story. One legend con-
tends that Valentine was a priest who was martyred Feb-
ruary 14th in 270 ad for secretly marrying young couples,
in direct deance of Emperor Claudius II, who believed
marriage interfered with their military service. en there
is also Saint Valentine of Terni, a bishop also put to death
by Claudius II, who the day reportedly commemorates. An-
other potential explanation is that there was a martyr by
the name of Valentine who, while imprisoned, fell in love
with a young girl—possibly his jailor’s daughter—who vis-
ited him during his connement. Before his death, it is al-
leged he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” a
popular expression still used by many in cards and other
expressions of love (Saint Leo University, 2018, para. 3–5).
However, a news story from CaribbeanNationalWeek- (2021, para. 6–19) reported that Valentine’s Day evi-
dently did not come to be celebrated as a day of romance
until about the 14th century. During the Middle Ages, it
was commonly believed in France and England that Febru-
ary 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, adding to
the idea that Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.
e English poet Georey Chaucer was the rst to record
St. Valentine’s Day as a day of romantic celebration in his
1375 poem “Parliament of Foules,” writing, “For this was
sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / When every fool cometh
there to choose his mate.” In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day
began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century.
e tradition quickly spread over the years globally, includ-
ing the U.S. and the Caribbean region.
e idea of valentine’s cards and related gis became
culturally solidied over time. Valentine greetings were
popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written val-
entines did not begin to appear until aer 1400. e old-
est known valentine greeting still in existence was a poem
written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife
while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Several
years later, it is believed King Henry V hired a writer named
John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to his rst wife,
Catherine of Valois. By the middle of the 18th century, it
was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to
exchange small tokens of aection or handwritten notes.
Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valen-
tines in the early 1700s.
Soon, printed cards began replacing written letters
due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made
cards were an easy way for people to express their emo-
tions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was
discouraged.In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland of Worces-
ter, Massachusetts, began selling the rst mass-produced
valentines in America. Known as the “Mother of the Valen-
tine,” she made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons,
and colorful pictures. e enduring popularity of this tradi-
tion makes Valentine’s Day the second largest card-send-
ing holiday (National Retail Federation & Prosper Insights
and Analytics, 2022).
Various other trappings of love and romance also
continue to be universally synonymous with Valentine’s
Day, but the psychological pressures of romantic relation-
ships themselves are signicant stressors irrespective of
any commercial eorts to promote this day. Illustratively,
Joyner and Udry (2000, p. 371) cited evidence that adoles-
cents sometimes become romantically involved in order to
elevate their social status, express their maturity, individu-
ate from their parents, or deny homosexual tendencies.
at review also suggested that females’ greater vulner-
ability to romantic involvement explains a large part of the
emerging gender dierence in depression during adoles-
cence. ese ndings are consistent with other research
indicating that females and feminine individuals regardless
of biological sex are signicantly more likely than males
and less feminine individuals to say that Valentine’s Day is
important to them (Ogletree, 1993). Moreover, it was found
that they reported giving and receiving more valentines, as
well as were more likely to have purposely worn the color
‘red’ for Valentine’s Day.
Compounding these types of individual motivations
and expectations are social inuences. In Western culture
no holiday experience is complete without shopping, and
some research indicates that the gi-giving occasions start
earlier every year (Mortelmans & Damen, 2001). Recently,
the rise in US consumer activity has been accompanied by
pressure to keep up with increasingly high status and high
dollar acquisition (Twitchell, 2002), and Valentine’s Day is
no exception. In fact, with its ritual of gi-giving to sym-
bolize the importance and worth of a love relationship, the
pressure could be greater than on most other holidays as
evidenced by some recent consumer surveys (see, e.g., Na-
tional Retail Federation & Prosper Insights and Analytics,
For instance, 38% of men contemplate terminating a
relationship rather than face the task of choosing a ‘really
good’ gi for their partners (Lund, 2004). Rugimbana et al.
(2003) further noted that individual motivations for gi-
giving on Valentine’s Day can be based on a conuence of
obligation, self-interest, and altruism, and that these mo-
tivations have deep manifestations in the perceived social
Rense Lange, Ilona Jerabek, Neil Dagnall VALENTINE’S DAY BLUES
power relationship between the genders. Faced with pros-
pect of a gi-less Valentine’s Day, 20% of women in the US
acted on their own and ordered owers for themselves in
2003 (Ispsos-Insight, 2003).
Boden and Williams (2002) discussed the commodi-
cation of romance and romantic relationships in their cri-
tique of Colin Campbell’s (1987) seminal contribution to
consumer sociology. ey theorized that the act of ‘buy-
ing romance’ alters society’s connection with genuine
emotion and the reality of how individuals experience the
relationship itself. When people are focused on acquiring
‘just the right gi to send just the right message,’ they be-
come distracted from what is happening on a more direct
interpersonal or intrapersonal level. At the same time, our
own unique expressions of emotion are supplanted by
mass-produced physical representations of our feelings,
marketed to us as the denitively appropriate means of
demonstrating our love for another.
Boden and Williams further argued how the female
experience necessitates consumption on a vigorous scale
in order to meet the exacting demands of our cultural im-
ages of beauty, considered a requirement in romantic re-
lationships. Ironically, this consumption feeds into the
development of women into “consumable objects” them-
selves, to be acquired by a man. Indeed, Illouz (1997) be-
lieves romance has fallen to the increased social pressures
around accumulation of wealth and status and is now as
much a capitalist activity as a genuine expression of emo-
tion. Whether similar trends extend to homosexual rela-
tionships is not clear (see, e.g., Newman & Nelson, 1996).
But much of the marketing around romance involves
fantasy and false promises, and consumers are constant-
ly faced with the shortcomings of reality as compared to
these illusions. According to Boden and Williams (2002),
disappointment is not necessarily a bad thing in this con-
text as it drives home the sometimes sad truths about
life and love. Whether such disappointments are accom-
panied by—or develop into—depression has not been
investigated in the literature. However, the relationship
between feeling that one matters to others and levels of
depression has been studied by Taylor and Turner (2001).
ey concluded that women experience higher levels of
‘mattering’ to others than men, and that such mattering
correlates negatively with depression. Conversely, it would
appear that not-mattering—as is implied by not receiving
Valentine’s Day gis—should lead to greater depression in
women than in men.
e preceding is consistent with Nolen-Hoeksema and
Jackson’s (2001) study on gender dierences in rumina-
tion, which can be seen as the expression of low levels of
depression (Lange et al., 2002). Women expressed feeling
less control over negative events in their lives than men
did, and they tended to engage in rumination as an alterna-
tive to taking direct action, perhaps as the result of social-
ization to remain femininely passive. Because women are
still expected to play a recipient’s role in the Valentine’s
Day ritual, they might be more likely to resort to ‘brooding,’
i.e., a passive comparison of one’s current situation with
some unachieved conduct—rather than problem-solving
behavior. Such brooding is related to higher concurrent
depression but lower depression over time (Treynor et al.,
The Present Report
Based on the preceding review, we hypothesized that
the ‘Valentine’s Day Blues’ is a real phenomenon that
might extend beyond depressive feelings to include other
forms of situational distress such as anxiety, social anxiety,
and rumination. In addition to diminishing over time aer
Valentine’s Day, we also anticipate dierent intensities in
reactions by age and gender. Specically, it seems likely
that Valentine’s Day is less important for older people than
for younger ones. Further, given women’s greater incidence
of depression and rumination, a main eect of gender is
expected. Finally, we expect to replicate the earlier nd-
ings by Lange et al. (2002) indicating that men and women
show qualitative dierences in their expressions of depres-
sion, resulting in dierent hierarchies of symptom percep-
Our data derived from a 2004 consumer sentiment
survey, which was part of a larger product development re-
search project for the online dating industry. e analysis
of ‘legacy’ (or heritage) data is admittedly not ideal and an
obvious limitation, but our approach is not without prec-
edent or rationale. Retrospective studies and case-control
designs are standard within biomedical research (Talari &
Goyal, 2020), and such data is especially useful to (a) but-
tress a sparse literature, and (b) serve as published norms
to compare and contextualize future ndings (Grin &
DAR-TG, 2015; Pasquetto et al., 2017). To be sure, compara-
tive research will be needed to explore some published
hints that attitudes toward Valentine’s Day are undergoing
cultural shis (see, e.g., Dare, 2019). Moreover, testing our
hypotheses with current data collection would undoubt-
edly be tainted by the concurrent prevalence of negative
psychological eects from social and travel restrictions
in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (Hossain
et al., 2020; Tang et al., 2020; Tintori et al., 2020). Market
research ostensibly corroborates this view, as Valentine’s
Day spending during the pandemic has notably soened
(e.g., Tighe, 2022). erefore, we argue that these reasons
collectively justify the publication of our legacy data.
is study relied heavily on Rasch (1960/1980) scaling,
VALENTINE’S DAY BLUES Rense Lange, Ilona Jerabek, Neil Dagnall
because this statistical approach is suited to address quali-
tative and quantitative issues within the same basic frame-
work. e Methods section provides an overview of the
relevant aspects to Rasch scaling and interested readers
are referred to Bond and Fox (2001) and Lange (2017) for
additional details. Finally, data collection was conducted
online, as this provides a powerful method to investigate
psychological constructs eciently using large samples of
individuals other than self-selected samples of university
students who take introductory psychology courses (Gos-
ling et al., 2004; Naglieri et al., 2004; Skita & Sargis, 2006).
Of course, online psychological testing does not automati-
cally overcome the self-selection problem of participants.
However, Rasch scaling provides a partial solution to this
confound by determining the extent to which question-
naire measurements are distorted by response biases
across subgroups of participants (see, e.g., Lange, 2017).
A convenience sample of 2,070 respondents partici-
pated at the website where this study
was identied as a special research project that was ap-
proved by the Ethics Committee at Integrated Knowledge
Systems. Moreover, a news release via an online dating
site announced the study and solicited volunteers for a
study on the “emotions, thoughts, and behaviors they ex-
perienced this past Valentine’s Day.” Respondents received
no compensation for their participation. e respondents
completed a ‘Valentine’s Day Blues Test’ on average about
two weeks (M = 14.9 days, SD = 5.21) aer Valentine’s Day
(range = 7 to 25 days).
e sample comprised 394 men, 1,033 women, and
643 individuals who did not specify their gender. e ages
of 1,462 respondents were known (608 unknown), yielding
a mean of 22.3 years (SD = 8.23, range = 18 to 65 years).
e relationship status of 567 respondents was unknown,
but about half (49.4%, n = 1022) identied themselves as
single and looking for a relationship, and about a quarter
(23.2%, n = 481) identied themselves as single, but not
looking. Unfortunately, most of these 1,503 singles (n =
789, or 52.5%) are under 20 years of age and the ages of
648 of the 714 remaining singles (or 90.7%) are unknown.
Accordingly, it will not be possible to compare the eects
of looking vs. not looking for a relationship by age.
‘Valentine’s Day Blues’ Test. As is shown in Table 1,
a 34-item, study-specic measure was developed to as-
sess several factors potentially related to ‘emotional/
psychological’ problems arising before, around, and aer
major holidays, namely depression, anxiety, social anxiety,
rumination, and unrealistic expectations. Specically, (a)
depression, anxiety, and social anxiety items were derived
from two dierent public domain assessments described
below (DASS-21 & CES-D), (b) the rumination scale was
adapted from the work of Nolen-Hoeksema (2003), (c) a
16-item depression subscale was taken from the CES-D
questionnaire (Radlo, 1977), (d) eight anxiety and three
social anxiety items were based on the anxiety scale of the
DASS-21 (Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995), and (e) seven items
were created to address rumination. e number of items
totaled 50 due to additional questions about demographic
variables and the respondent’s relationship status [i.e., “in
a relationship” (married, engaged, living together, or living
apart) versus “not in a relationship” (actively vs. not active-
ly looking for a romantic partner)].
e Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression
Scale (CES-D) (Radlo, 1977) measures the severity and
frequency of depressive symptomology during the previ-
ous week. It is best utilized as a screening, rather than
diagnostic tool, as it has not been validated in terms of
accuracy of diagnosing clinically signicant depression.
It has been employed among both the general population
and among specic clinical samples, including alcohol and
drug abusers, the elderly, and cancer patients. It is useful
for the purposes of the Valentine’s Blues study due to the
brief time period that the questions refer to because it is
sensitive to changes as time passes aer Valentine’s Day.
e test has a coecient alpha (Spearman-Brown, split-
halves) of at least .85 across studies.
e Anxiety scale from the Depression, Anxiety
and Stress Scale—21 Items (DASS-21) (Lovibond & Lovi-
bond, 1995) is a set of three self-report scales designed to
measure the emotional states of depression, anxiety, and
stress. Each of the three DASS-21 scales contains 7 items,
divided into subscales with similar content. e depression
scale assesses dysphoria, hopelessness, devaluation of life,
self-deprecation, lack of interest / involvement, anhedonia,
and inertia. e anxiety scale assesses autonomic arousal,
skeletal muscle eects, situational anxiety, and subjective
experience of anxious aect.
e stress scale is sensitive to levels of chronic non-
specic arousal. It assesses diculty relaxing, nervous
arousal, and being easily upset / agitated, irritable / over-
reactive, and impatient. Scores for depression, anxiety,
and stress are calculated by summing the scores for the
relevant items. Antony et al. (1998) validated the DASS-21
by comparing scores on the dierent scales of this test (de-
pression, stress, and anxiety) of various diagnostic groups.
Groups with panic disorder scored signicantly higher on
the anxiety scale than normal volunteers and groups with
Rense Lange, Ilona Jerabek, Neil Dagnall VALENTINE’S DAY BLUES
depression. Cronbach alpha for the DASS-21 anxiety sub-
scale was .87.
Rating Scale Analysis
We analyzed the items in Table 1 using the Rasch rat-
ing scale model (Andrich, 1978). is model assumes that
respondents r with trait levels Rr encounter rating scale
questions q indicative of trait levels Qq with internal cat-
egory boundaries (or steps’) Bg. en, these respondents
will select category b with probability Pr,q,b, subject to:
In the following, the quantities Rr and Qq will also be
referred to as the respondents’ and items’ locations, re-
spectively. Note that all parameters are expressed in a
common metric on the latent Rasch dimension. Given the
log-odds in the le-hand side of Equation 1, the units of
this Rasch dimension are called Logits.
Item Fit. e various model parameters and their
standard error of measurement (SE) will be estimated
using the Winsteps (Linacre, 2003a) and Facets (Linacre,
2003b) soware. In addition to indices of reliability, this
soware also computes questions’ mean-square deviation
of the Rasch model, called their Outt. e optimal value
of this statistic is 1.0, but Outt values ranging from 0.6
to 1.4 are generally acceptable (Bond & Fox, 2001). Items
with Outtq > 1.4 are said to be ‘noisy’ as such values result
from response patterns with greater variability than is im-
plied by Equation 1. Noisy items form a greater threat to
the Rasch model than do ‘muted’ items (Outtq < 0.6), i.e.,
items receiving responses that are too predictable (e.g., due
to item redundancy). Since noise may reect lack of unidi-
mensionality, multidimensional models will be tted using
Conquest (Wu et al., 1998). is soware provides competi-
tive model tests, as well as estimates of factors’ direct (i.e.,
attenuation-corrected) correlation.
Item Shis. e Facets soware optionally provides
statistical tests to determine whether items’ relative lo-
cations dier across subgroups of respondents regardless
of these groups’ average response levels. Identifying such
“shis” is important because this means that questions
have a group-specic semantics (for discussions, see Lange
et al., 2000, 2001). Conversely, the absence of item shis
indicates that scaling results generalize across subgroups.
In addition, large shis (e.g., greater than 0.5 Logits) im-
pede measurement as this biases the estimates of respon-
dents’ trait levels (Wright & Douglas, 1975). is research
will address item shis as related to the respondents’ de-
e 34 items in Table 1 were scaled using the Winsteps
soware. As is indicated under the heading ‘Item t,’ all but
three items show acceptable t to a unidimensional Rasch
model (i.e., Outt < 1.4). All items are positively correlated
with the latent Rasch variable (M = 0.57), and the overall
Rasch reliability of respondentsmeasures is 0.92 (Cron-
bach alpha = 0.94). e preceding indicates that (almost
all) items form an actual hierarchy, in which items with
higher locations consistently receive lower ratings than do
items at lower locations.
Item Hierarchy
As an aid in interpreting the Rasch dimension, the
items in Table 1 are shown sorted according to their ‘lo-
cations’ (or Logit positions). at is, items with the lowest
endorsement rates (high Qq) are listed rst and items with
the highest endorsement rates (low Qq) are listed last. It
can be seen that almost all rumination items tend to be en-
dorsed before any of the other items—i.e., such items de-
ne the lowest form of depression. Indicators of low levels
of depression (e.g., “feelings of being depressed, lack of en-
joyment, trouble sleeping”) occur next, followed by more
severe signs such as “feeling like a failure, crying spells,
and lack of appetite.Finally, the highest levels of depres-
sion are characterized by signs of anxiety like “trembling,
feeling close to panic, and breathing diculties.” Interest-
ingly, signs of social anxiety (i.e., “feeling lonely, feelings of
being disliked, and others being unfriendly”) occur across
the entire hierarchy.
As a dimensionality-check, the Depression, Social
Anxiety, Anxiety, and Rumination items as identied in
Table 1 were entered as separate factors in a four-dimen-
sional Rasch model using Conquest.1 Indicative of multi-di-
mensionality, the four-factor model provides signicantly
better t (c2
12 = 837.19, p < .001) than does the one-dimen-
sional version consisting of all 34 items.
Table 2 shows the reliability of the four subsets of
items, as well as their Pearson correlations (above diago-
nal) and their direct (i.e., unattenuated) correlations (be-
low diagonal). It can be seen that all but one direct cor-
VALENTINE’S DAY BLUES Rense Lange, Ilona Jerabek, Neil Dagnall
TABLE 1. Summary of Scaling Analyses
Item t
Analyses 
Item Item - Age
Item Typea
OuttdTotal r Gendere,f
19 or younger
20 to 29 30 to 39
40 or older
27 A
I experienced breathing diculty
(e.g., excessively rapid breathing,
1.46 0.91 0.54 -0.01 1.35 1.75 2.07 1.41 9.50
23 A I fel t I w as cl ose t o pan ic. 1.24 0.77 0.59 0.09 1.22 1.20 1.50 0.65 5.98
21 A I felt scared without any good
reason. 1.04 0.88 0.59 0.00 1.08 0.99 1.15 0.41 6.50
25 A I experienced trembling (e.g., in
the hands). 1.01 0.95 0.55 0.01 0.80 1.58 1.66 0.82 23.15
26 A I was aware of dryness of my mo
uth. 0.98 1.12 0.49 0.35 0.92 1.17 1.21 0.73 2.23
15 SA Peo ple were u nfrie nd l y. 0.90 0.95 0.52 0.09 0.91 1.01 0.97 0.41 6.73
22 A
I was aware of the action of my
heart in the absence of physical
0.89 1.32 0.46 0.13 0.75 1.08 1.47 0.19 15.77
2 D I di d not fee l l i ke e at i ng 0.69 1.06 0.50 -0.17 0.67 0.66 0.92 0.41 1.48
10 D I f el t fea rf ul . 0.56 0.91 0.57 0.17 0.75 0.28 0.30 0.57 14.45
24 A
I was worried about situations in
which I might panic and make a
fool of myself.
0.51 0.99 0.55 0.26 0.33 0.81 1.24 0.65 20.65
17 D I ha d cry ing spe lls. 0.49 0.96 0.58 -1.28 0.48 0.48 0.26 0.65 1.54
9 D I thought my life had been a
failure. 0.38 0.80 0.66 0.29 0.43 0.40 0.20 0.19 3.91
31 R I am decisiveb 0.28 2.72 0.24 -0.22 0.34 0.36 0.32 -0.14 1.36
13 D I talked l es s than u su a l. 0.11 0.93 0.54 0.21 0.14 0.07 -0.01 -0.01 0.93
19 SA I fe lt th at p eo pl e d is lik e me . 0.03 0.80 0.65 0.02 -0.08 0.40 0.41 0.19 13.49
20 A I could not ge t go ing 0.00 0.75 0.65 0.11 0.10 -0.04 -0.53 -0.15 11.22
11 D M y sleep was rest le s s. -0.02 0.99 0.54 0.06 0.10 -0.05 -0.44 -0.47 9.29
1 D I was bothered by things that usu-
al ly d on’ t bo ther me. -0.11 0.81 0.59 -0.15 -0.04 -0.13 -0.32 -0.28 3.42
7 D I felt that everything I did was an
eort. -0.17 1.38 0.41 0.22 -0.05 -0.30 -0.44 -0.08 6.19
3 D
I felt that I could not shake o the
blues even with help from my fam-
ily or friends.
-0.21 0.84 0.66 -0.11 -0.18 -0.13 -0.49 -0.28 2.14
16 D I en jo yed li fe . -0.31 0.75 0.65 0.13 -0.27 -0.28 -0.51 -0.15 0.46
12 D I wa s h ap py. -0.36 0.72 0.65 0.08 -0.32 -0.48 -0.76 -0.08 5.96
4 D I felt that I was just as good as
other people. -0.37 1.26 0.51 -0.17 -0.52 -0.19 0.22 0.19 15.74
8 D I fe l t h o pe f ul ab o ut t he f ut u re . -0.43 1.21 0.48 -0.08 -0.42 -0.41 -0.76 -0.15 3.23
5 D I had trouble keeping my mind on
what I was doing. -0.51 0.96 0.55 0.00 -0.54 -0.47 -0.16 -0.60 4.70
6 D I fe lt d epr es sed . -0.60 0.70 0.71 0.09 -0.55 -0.62 -0.87 -0.28 2.50
34 R No matter what I do, I can’t get my
mind o  my pro blem s. -0.62 1.00 0.67  0.12 -0.68 -0.56 -0.48 -0.66 1.24
18 D I f elt s ad. -0.64 0.65 0.71 -0.11 -0.61 -0.72 -0.87 -0.28 2.91
29 R
I tend to focus on upsetting situ-
ations and events happening in
my life.
-0.73 1.16 0.61 -0.01 -0.71 -0.87 -0.74 -0.69 2.09
33 R I think a lot about why I do the
things I do. -0.96 1.59 0.52 0.08 -0.98 -1.17 -0.82 -0.76 7.10
32 R I spend time alone wondering why
I feel the way I do. -0.97 1.34 0.62 -0.04 -1.02 -1.01 -0.77 -0.44 4.71
14 SA I fe lt lone ly. -1.08 0.86 0.66 0.25 -1.00 -1.24 -1.45 -0.60 6.64
30 R
I can think about a problem for
hours, and still not feel that the
issue is resolved in my head
-1.15 1.26 0.60 -0.17 -1.17 -1.22 -1.09 -0.94 2.21
28 R A l ov ed o n e s n a ps a t y o u. Yo u . . . -1.34 1.54 0.43 -0.15 -1.22 -1.56 -1.69 -1.61 9.13
a D = Depression, SA = Social Anxiety, A = Anxiety, R = Rumination
b Rating scores reversed
c e SE of each item’s location is about 0.04 Logits
d Values outside the range 0.6 to 1.4 are marked in bold
e Negative (negative) Logit dierence reect that men’s (women’s) ratings are lower than those of women (men) with similar trait levels.
f Due to varying error terms, smaller eects may reach statistical signicance, whereas larger eects do not.
Rense Lange, Ilona Jerabek, Neil Dagnall VALENTINE’S DAY BLUES
relation exceeds 0.80, the exception being that between
rumination and anxiety (0.66). Given these high direct cor-
relations, the items were treated as a unidimensional mea-
sure of generalized depression in most analyses. However,
selective multivariate analyses were performed as well,
and their results are reported whenever some subscales
show signicantly dierent patterns.
Differential Item Functioning (DIF)
To detect whether the items’ locations are statisti-
cally similar within subgroups, omnibus test for dieren-
tial item function were performed across various groups
using the Facets soware. As is shown in Table 3, the time
expired between Valentine’s Day and taking the question-
naires, respondents’ sexual orientations (heterosexual vs.
gay or lesbian), their countries of residence, self-reported
conditions, or whether they received gis for Valentine’s
Day did not appreciably alter the Rasch locations of the 34
questionnaire items (all p > .15). In other words, the item
hierarchy generalizes across the aforementioned indepen-
dent variables. However, Table 3 also shows that items’ lo-
cations diered signicantly across respondents’ relation-
ship status (c2
102 = 175.6, p < .001), gender (c2
68 = 128.0, p <
.001) and age (c2
136 = 228.5, p < .001). We discuss each DIF
eect in turn, as well as their overall impact on measure-
TABLE 2. Sub-Scale Reliabilities and Correlations between the Four Sub-Scales
Sub-Scales Sub-Scale d
Subscales Reliability D A SA RAll 34 items
Depression (D) 0.86 10.71a0.80 0.66 0.93
Anxiety (A) 0.41 0.82 b, c 10.78 0.50 0.80
Social Anxiety (SA) 0.69 0.98 0.85 10.75 0.83
Rumination (R ) 0.73 0.81 0.66 0.82 10.82
a Pearson correlations are shown above the diagonal
b Direct (i.e., attenuation corrected) correlations are shown below the diagonal
c All direct correlations are based on sub-sample of 602 respondents (see text)
d Pearson correlations
TABLE 3. Omnibus Tests for DIF for Eight Independent Sub-Variables
DIF Variable ac2df p
Weeks since Valentine’s Day (1, 2, 3 or more weeks) 59.8b102 > 0.50
Sexual orientation (M-F + F-M, M-M, F-F) 105.0 102 >0.35
Country where respondents reside (Canada, UK, US, Other, Unknown) 130.4 170 >0.50
Self reported psychological condition (No, Yes) 74.8 68 >0.20
Received gift (No, Yes) 79.7 68 >0.15
Relationship status (In relationship, Single-not looking, Single-looking) 175.6 102 <0.001
Gender (Men, Women) 128.0 68 <0.001
Age group (10’s, 20’s, 30’s, 40+) 228.5 136 <0.001
Gender by Age interaction 444.7 272 <0.001
aOnly cases with known values for independent variables were included
bFacets reports results with one decimal only
VALENTINE’S DAY BLUES Rense Lange, Ilona Jerabek, Neil Dagnall
Relationship Status
Separate respondent groups were created by rst di-
viding those in relationship (i.e., married, engaged, living
together, or living apart) versus those not in a relationship.
is last group was then further divided into those who
were currently looking for a romantic partner versus those
who were not. Although Facets’ omnibus DIF test was sig-
nicant, the individual item shis were very small, ranging
from –0.13 to 0.18 Logits (SD = 0.049). As these changes
are relatively small (Wright & Douglas, 1975) they are not
further discussed.
Gender Effects
e ‘Gender’ entries listed in Table 1 reect the Logit
dierence between men and women’s item locations. Sta-
tistically signicant dierences are marked in boldface, and
it can be seen that men and women dier signicantly (p <
.01) with respect to four items. at is, relative to men with
similar levels of generalized depression, women dispropor-
tionately think that “my life is a failure,” and they are more
aware of “dryness of my mouth.” By contrast, men seem
more likely report being “less decisive” than do comparable
women (note that this item was reverse scored). Further,
in agreement with cultural stereotypes, men are far less
likely (by 1.26 Logits) to report having “crying spells” than
did women with similar levels of generalized depression.
Age Effects
e item locations Ri (in Logits) in the “19 or younger,
“20 to 29,“30 to 39,” and “40 and older” groups are listed
in the right side of Table 1. As is indicated by the c2
4 value
listed in the nal column of this table, six items show sig-
nicant age related DIF (p < .01). For instance, Item 25 (“I
experience trembling [e.g., in the hands]) respectively as-
sumes locations 0.80, 1.58, 1.66, and 0.82 in the four age
groups, and these locations dier signicantly (c2
4 = 23.15,
p < .001). e preceding indicates that those 19-or-young-
er, or 40-or-older are more likely to report trembling (low-
er item locations) than those with similar levels of overall
depression but aged between 20 and 29, or between 30
and 39 years (higher item locations).
While no clear pattern in the individual items’ age DIF
can be discerned, the item-location distributions clearly
Figure 1. Boxplots of item locations by respondent’ age categories.
Rense Lange, Ilona Jerabek, Neil Dagnall VALENTINE’S DAY BLUES
dier in the 19-or-younger, 20 to 29, 30 to 39, and 40-and-
older groups (see Figure 1). Specically, the variance of the
Qi in these groups are 0.53, 0.72, 0.92, and 0.36, respec-
tively, and these quantities dier signicantly (Levene’s
test, F3,132 = 3.50, p < 0.02). e greater variance in the 30 to
39 group (i.e., 0.92) indicates that easier” items (i.e., with
lower Qi) received disproportionately high ratings, whereas
“harder” items (higher Qi) received disproportionately low
ratings in this age group. e 40-and-older group shows
the smallest variance (0.36), signifying that these respon-
dents gave disproportionately low ratings to ‘easy’ items
(thus making them appear ‘harder’) and disproportionate-
ly high ratings to ‘hard’ items (thus making them appear
‘easier’), thereby blurring the distinction among the items.
Taken together, the variance dierences suggest that Val-
entine-related issues gain in importance with increasing
age, but then quickly lose importance for older individuals
(i.e., > 40 years of age).
We already noted that pronounced item shis could
distort the estimation of the Rasch person measures. Ac-
cordingly, the raw-sum to Logit transformations were com-
puted separately for respondents in the “19 or younger,” “20
to 29,” “30 to 39,” “40 and older” groups. Figure 2 shows the
estimated Logit values (Y-axis) as a function of the raw sums
(X-axis), together with pooled local errors of estimate (ver-
tical lines) based on the combined sample of respondents.
Note that in many places the raw-sum to Rasch translation
for the 40-and-older group falls outside the band formed
by +1 SE around the common estimates—thus yielding less
extreme Rasch estimates for the lowest and highest raw-
sums. is pattern is reversed in the 30–39 year old group,
which shows more extreme Rasch estimates for the lowest
and highest raw-sums. In other words, the item-level age
DIF eects are suciently strong to introduce systematic
distortions into the measurement of overall depression
across the age levels studied here. Similar analyses by re-
lationship status and gender indicate that the raw-sum to
Rasch translation curves (not shown) nearly coincide in the
sub-groups dened by these variables. us, the DIF asso-
ciated with relationship status and gender introduced no
noticeable bias into the measurement process.
Figure 2. Raw-sum to Rasch Person Measure Transformation in four age groups.
VALENTINE’S DAY BLUES Rense Lange, Ilona Jerabek, Neil Dagnall
Group Comparisons
is section reports the eects of age, gender, gi,
relationship status, and the time elapsed since Valentine’s
Day on respondents’ measures on the Rasch Non-Anxiety
Depression, Anxiety, Social Anxiety, and Rumination sub-
scales. ese dependent variables can be rescaled arbi-
trarily—hence, for ease of interpretation z-score versions
of these dependent variables are used throughout. We
note that, due to missing data (see Methods section) the
independent variables cannot all be crossed simultaneous-
ly. Instead, separate analyses were performed by (a) age,
(b) gender, elapsed time, and gi across all respondents,
and (c) gender, relationship status, elapsed time, and gi
for the youngest respondent group (under 20 years of age)
Given the severe biasing eects of respondent’ age,
any main or interaction eects involving this variable must
be treated with caution. We note that a Multivariate Analy-
sis of Variance (MANOVA) over the Non-Anxiety Depres-
sion, Anxiety, Social Anxiety, and Rumination subscales by
Respondent Age (19 or younger, 20 to 29, 30 to 39, and 40
or older) showed a signicant main eect (F12,4371 = 6.86, p <
0.001). Figure 3 shows that all ve variables decrease with
increasing age (smallest univariate F3,1458 = 7.88, p < .001).
Univariate Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) by Age with
repeated measures over the Depression, Anxiety, Social
Anxiety, and Rumination subscales showed a signicant
interaction eect (F7.28, 3537.35 = 4.67, p < 0.001),2 indicat-
ing that this age eect is not uniform across these depen-
dent variables. As is shown in Figure 3, the age decrease in
Anxiety and Social Anxiety is less pronounced than that in
Depression and Rumination. However, the dierences are
quite small, and they are also susceptible to the age-re-
lated distortions that were described earlier (see Impact).
Hence, while respondents’ age was ignored in all major
Figure 3. Average over all subscales, Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Rumination, and generalized measure derived from all 34
items by age (all variables were standardized).
Rense Lange, Ilona Jerabek, Neil Dagnall VALENTINE’S DAY BLUES
analyses reported below, additional tests were performed
to determine whether age distortions might explain par-
ticular eects.
Gender, Elapsed Time, and Gift Interactions
e standardized Non-Anxiety Depression, Anxiety,
Social Anxiety, and Rumination Rasch subscales were
subjected to a Gender x Gi (Received gi: No vs. Yes) x
Elapsed Time (No. of weeks since Valentine’s Day: Up to 2
weeks, 2 to 3 weeks, and 4 or more weeks) MANOVA. e
ndings showed signicant multivariate main eects of
Gender (F4,1393 = 5.46, p < 0.01) and receiving Gis (F4,1393
= 5.07, p < 0.01), as well as Gender x Time (F8,2788 = 1.95,
p < 0.05) and Gender x Time x Gi (F8,2788 = 1.94, p < 0.05)
To gain greater insight, a univariate ANOVA was per-
formed which treated the Non-Anxiety Depression, Anxi-
ety, Social Anxiety, and Rumination Rasch subscales as
repeated measures (see Note 1). Consistent with the lit-
erature, a main eect of Gender indicates that women re-
port slightly more intense depressive symptoms across the
four subscales than do men (MWomen = 0.06 vs. MMen = –0.09,
F1,1396 = 8.05, p < .01). Additionally, and as hypothesized,
respondents who received gis reported less intense de-
pressive (M = –0.10) symptoms than those who did not (M
= 0.07) (F1,1396 = 10.29, p < .001). As indicated by signicant
Gender x Measure (F3,3450 = 5.90, p < .001) and Gi x Mea-
sure (F3,3450 = 3.42, p < .05) interactions, these eects vary
slightly across the subscales. In particular, men and wom-
en dier somewhat less with regard to Anxiety than the
other variables. Further, receiving a gi yielded somewhat
Figure 4. Overall Depression by Gender, Time Elapsed Since Valentine’s Day, and Gi.
VALENTINE’S DAY BLUES Rense Lange, Ilona Jerabek, Neil Dagnall
greater decreases in social anxiety and rumination than in
non-anxiety depression and anxiety. However, both inter-
actions are ordinal and they are not further discussed.
Most importantly, a powerful Gender x Gi x Elapsed
Time interaction was observed (F2,1396 = 5.08, p < .01). Con-
sistent with the Gi main eect, the solid lines in Figure
4 indicate that men’s overall level of depression is greater
when not receiving a Valentine’s Day gi then when receiv-
ing such a gi—but only for up to four weeks aer Valen-
tine’s Day. Women who did not receive gis report more
intense depressive symptoms as well, but their overall
level of depression continues to rise over the entire pe-
riod studied. In other words, while men rather quickly re-
bound from the depression induced by not receiving gis,
for women who did not receive a Valentine’s Day gi the
greater depression remains. As a result, the Gender x Time
(F2,1396 = 4.71, p < .01) and Gi x Time (F2,1396 = 3.38, p < .05)
interactions are signicant as well.
We note that similar ndings are obtained when the
Non-Anxiety Depression, Anxiety, Social Anxiety, and Ru-
mination Rasch subscales are averaged (dotted lines). is
nding supports our conclusion that the Gender and Gi
by Measure interaction eects on generalized depression
described above are essentially meaningless.
Relationship Status, Gender, Elapsed
Time, and Gift Interactions
As before, a MANOVA over the Rasch Non-Anxiety
Depression, Anxiety, Social Anxiety, and Rumination sub-
scales was performed. e results showed qualitatively
similar main eects of Gender, receiving Gis, as well as
signicant Gender x Time and Gender x Time x Gi interac-
tions with analogous interpretations (all p < .05). Rather
unexpectedly, Relationship Status did not show a statis-
tically signicant main eect (F4,977 = 1.33, p > 0.30), and
all interactions involving Relationship Status also failed
to reach statistical signicance (all p > 0.05). is pattern
was conrmed by follow-up analyses in which Non-Anxiety
Depression, Anxiety, Social Anxiety, and Rumination were
treated as repeated measures. In interpreting the above,
we should emphasize that the available cases consist al-
most exclusively of younger respondents only (i.e., under
20 years of age, see Methods section). e possibility thus
remains that future research will nd that relationship sta-
tus does play a signicant role for older individuals (> 40
Our title asked whether the ‘Valentine’s Day Blues’
is a valid psychosocial phenomenon. e present ndings
strongly suggest that it is, although the concept should
not be sensationalized as a form of so-called ‘toxic stress’
(see Scheeringa, 2022). Like the experience of Lily in the
Introduction, our respondents reported signicant levels
of adverse emotions and cognitions coinciding with this
holiday. is distress was neither gender-specic nor re-
stricted to singles that identied themselves as specically
looking for a romantic relationship. ese ndings speak to
Baier’s (1988) assertion that the ‘holiday blues syndrome’
is a situational stress reaction related to social demands
and unmet expectations. However, previous literature on
depression and romantic relationships extends this idea
to help explain the dierential pattern of ndings that we
First and foremost, the term ‘blues’ alone is an inad-
equate descriptor of this phenomenon, since reports of
distress around Valentine’s Day extend beyond depressive
feelings to include anxiety, social anxiety, and rumination.
Younger respondents tended to score higher on all these
symptoms, which is generally consistent with the results
of Joyner and Udry (2000). ose authors found that both
male and female adolescents experience higher levels of
depression, demonstrate higher levels of delinquency and
problems with alcohol, and report more issues with school
performance and parents when they become involved in
romantic relationships. So, regardless of the events sur-
rounding a given Valentine’s Day, the potential angst and
turmoil of adolescent love could be reected in our nd-
e ndings further imply that 30-to-40-year olds
may be of greater clinical concern than adolescents. It
seems reasonable to assume that individuals in this age
range have dierent expectations concerning relationship
than other age groups. While adolescents and ‘twenty-
somethings’ are still exploring the brave new frontier of
romantic relationships, 30-to-40 year olds likely feel so-
cial pressures to develop relationships that match spe-
cic expectations concerning monogamous and long-term
commitment. e celebration of Valentine’s Day provides
evidence of such commitment, while signaling compliance
with social norms if the gi giving and other ritual expres-
sions of love were carried out in accordance with cultural
expectations. Flowers, roses, and candlelit dinners all send
a message that the relationship—and the individual’s life
at this point in time—is ‘on track.’ At this age romance is
expected to have solidied into marriage or a long-term,
committed relationship. By contrast, not receiving Valen-
tine’s Day gis indicates failure and, especially for women,
a running out of time to ‘get it right.’ However, those age 40
and above are more likely to have experienced a full rela-
tionship cycle that includes marriage and divorce, and they
are thus no longer subject to the pressures of the never-
Rense Lange, Ilona Jerabek, Neil Dagnall VALENTINE’S DAY BLUES
married. ey also may have grown past the age of invest-
ing heavily in society’s approval concerning their love life.
As was anticipated, respondents who received a Val-
entine’s gi reported fewer symptoms of psychological
distress than those who did not receive a gi—and this
eect was robust irrespective of their gender. We inter-
pret this as support for Boden and Williams’ (2002) argu-
ment for the commodication of love in Western culture,
as well as the sheer volume of participation in Valentine’s
Day consumerism. at is, when we engage in shopping
and gi-giving to such an extent, there can be no question
about the social pressures to be included in the game. Our
ndings thus indicate that those who are le out demon-
strate a response not only to their internal emotional cues
(depression, anxiety), but to external societal cues as well
(social anxiety).
But while men and women both seem to experience
psychological distress related to Valentine’s Day, and this
distress persists over time for both, our data suggest that
men rebound earlier than do women. For example, the men
reported a marked decrease in psychological distress fol-
lowing the second week aer Valentine’s Day, whereas the
symptoms of distress in the women actually appeared to
increase over the weeks following the holiday. Some cau-
tion is needed when interpreting these ndings, however,
since our data are based on a cross-sectional rather than
longitudinal sample.
We interpret our ndings as representing dier-
ent reactive styles in men versus women. For instance,
Nolen-Hoeksema (1987) argued that men’s responses
to dysphoria tend to be more behavioral and distracting
and therefore dampen their dysphoric episodes, whereas
women’s responses to dysphoric episodes tend to be more
ruminative and therefore amplify and prolong dysphoria.
Nolen-Hoeksema and colleagues have repeatedly shown in
laboratory and questionnaire studies that ruminative and
self-focused responses to distressed states exacerbate
and prolong depressed mood and that active distraction
remedies distressed mood. Furthermore, women are more
likely than men to use ruminative responses but are no
less likely to use distraction (Nolen-Hoeksema et al., 1993).
Nolen-Hoeksema (1987) argued that the sex dierences
in rates of depression arise because women’s rumina-
tive response styles amplify and prolong their depressive
episodes” (p. 276). According to this view, ruminative re-
sponses may prolong distress by “enhancing the eects of
depressed mood on thinking, interfering with instrumental
behaviors, and interfering with eective problem solving”
(Nolen-Hoeksema, 1993, p. 311). is contrasts with men’s
distracting responses that allow for more positive thinking,
generation of solutions, and increases in positive mood.
erefore, while men may ruminate initially over Val-
entine’s Day, perhaps they are characteristically adopting a
reective style of rumination that propels them to engage
in some kind of problem-solving behavior which leads to a
resolution, or simply brings closure. In contrast, women
tend to engage more in brooding. us, they may not reach
conclusions about next-steps or problem-solving actions
that could ameliorate their symptoms. Rather, brooding
tends to increase their negative emotional state, and thus
symptoms worsen rather than abate. Further research
is needed here since as gender dierences in everyday
stress might play a role as well—for example, gender role
perspectives contend that women are inherently more
distressed than men as their roles expose them to more
stressors (for a discussion, see Almeida & Kessler, 1998).
Future studies might best use measures of reective
and brooding forms of rumination (cf. Treynor et al., 2003,
pp. 248–251) in the context of longitudinal designs to
conrm these and other hypotheses for holiday-related
stress. New research can also leverage other improve-
ments to overcome limitations of the present study. For
instance, the presence of symptoms associated with
psychological distress does not automatically elucidate
their ultimate source(s) or cause(s). Our results clearly
implicate situational stress reactions to the commercial
holiday itself, but contextual inuences like demand char-
acteristics or expectancy-suggestion eects might also
play a key role. us, the degree to which the ‘Valentine’s
Day Blues’ involves ‘reexive’ (or naturally-occurring)
symptoms versus ‘factitious’ (or performative) symptoms
should be examined. We also note that retrospective and
case-control studies can be important tools for model-
building although their ndings should form the basis on
which prospective research is planned (Talari & Goyal,
In the meantime, we might oer some guidelines for
addressing the ‘Valentine’s Day Blues’ based on the im-
plications from this study coupled with previous work on
stress reactions:
— For those not in a relationship, Valentine’s Day can
be an occasion to engage in deliberate acknowledgement
and acceptance of oneself. One’s degree of self-compas-
sion directly inuences the capacity to love others and
be loved (Ne & Beretvas, 2013). Moreover, adult singles
who exhibit happiness and contentment in their life can
be positive role models for adolescents, who are especially
susceptible to premature romantic relationships due to
psychological and social pressures.
— When social pressures to celebrate through con-
sumption become intense, individuals can respond on their
own behalf just as couples do for each other. Shopping for
one’s own Valentine’s gi is empowering if it is not a se-
VALENTINE’S DAY BLUES Rense Lange, Ilona Jerabek, Neil Dagnall
cret act, but instead an act of self-expression (e.g., Sirgy et
al., 2016). Alternatively, a reasoned choice to refrain from
spending can act as a gi to one’s nancial health, with the
simpler pleasures in life serving as cost-free substitutes.
— Gestures of love need not be limited to the roman-
tic sort on Valentine’s Day. Donations of time, money, and
creativity through volunteering tend to benet the donor
as much as the recipient (Yeung, Zhang, & Kim, 2017). See-
ing rsthand the real-life needs of the less fortunate can
help keep romantic disappointment in perspective.
— A ‘partner-less’ Valentine’s Day can serve as a call-
to-arms when individuals take the time to self-reect and
correspondingly dene what they are looking for in a ro-
mantic relationship, the obstacles to achieving their goals
in this area of their lives, and what steps are needed for
success (e.g., Stein & Grant, 2014).
Lastly, planning ahead to stay active during the day
and evening can help prevent the rumination and escala-
tion of dysphoria discussed earlier. Optimal choices will
avoid prime dating environments, such as movies or ro-
mantic restaurants, and involve supportive friends and
family members. But we should likewise note on balance
that challenges and uncertainties carry over to those who
nd and sustain committed relationships. Indeed, the psy-
chology of love and attachment exemplies a topic that is
squarely within mainstream science but nonetheless char-
acterized by perpetual controversy and mystery (see, e.g.,
Basili & Sacco, 2020; Finkel et al., 2012; Masuda, 2003).
is preliminary research underscores the point that
ideas or claims originated, or reinforced, by pop psycholo-
gy are not necessarily dubious. At the same time, common
health assumptions—including those that seem inherently
reasonable—should always be rigorously scrutinized to
promote public education and trust in science, as well as
to inform responsible clinical approaches as needed. In this
way researchers can combat the problem of medical sen-
sationalism or misinformation from pop psychologists or
activist platforms (Suarez-Lledo & Alvarez-Galvez, 2021).
Moreover, we argue that Modern Test eory is the best
practice approach to validate, describe, and measure the
phenomenology of symptom perception across various
biomedical or psychological contexts, while also identify-
ing nuances associated with demographic or cultural vari-
ables (Lange et al., 2000, 2002; Lange et al., 2015). To be
sure, all forms of distress, including the formal psychiat-
ric diagnostic categories of the DSM-5, are locally shaped
(Ecks, 2016). is also certainly includes the measurement
of core features, nuances, and confounds with perceptions
in altered or anomalous experiences (e.g., Houran et al.,
2019; Lange, 2017; Lange et al., 2019; Lange et al., 2004a;
Merckelbach et al., 2017).
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VALENTINE’S DAY BLUES Rense Lange, Ilona Jerabek, Neil Dagnall
... Moreover, the plethora of online content about reputed commitment issues in men seems to underscore the trend for many people to use internet sources to self-diagnose or self-treat a variety of psychological or medical maladies (Alhusseini et al., 2020;Finney Rutten et al., 2019;Forkner-Dunn, 2003). We thus aimed to test this popular belief as part of our general research on the veracity of certain 'pop psychology-medicine' beliefs and concepts (see also Lange et al., 2022). ...
Full-text available
A sample of 36,592 online daters provided data on Commitment Readiness defined as “an individual’s desire and readiness to commit exclusively to one romantic partner” in relation to Age, Gender, and Parental Status (singles with and without children). Consistent with previous research, the women scored higher on Commitment Readiness than did the men. Furthermore, age and Commitment Readiness showed a strong inverted U-shaped relation, with younger and older respondents scoring lower on Commitment Readiness as compared to individuals aged 31-60 yrs. Interestingly, Commitment Readiness evidenced neither a significant effect of Parental Status nor an interaction of Gender by Parental Status. Besides the theoretical import of these results, our study illustrates the potential power of Internet research and provides a curious counterexample to criticisms of over-reliance on significance levels for correlational data. Keywords: commitment readiness, gender differences, invented syndromes, pop psychology
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Background: Although at present there is broad agreement among researchers, health professionals, and policy makers on the need to control and combat health misinformation, the magnitude of this problem is still unknown. Consequently, it is fundamental to discover both the most prevalent health topics and the social media platforms from which these topics are initially framed and subsequently disseminated. Objective: This systematic review aimed to identify the main health misinformation topics and their prevalence on different social media platforms, focusing on methodological quality and the diverse solutions that are being implemented to address this public health concern. Methods: We searched PubMed, MEDLINE, Scopus, and Web of Science for articles published in English before March 2019, with a focus on the study of health misinformation in social media. We defined health misinformation as a health-related claim that is based on anecdotal evidence, false, or misleading owing to the lack of existing scientific knowledge. We included (1) articles that focused on health misinformation in social media, including those in which the authors discussed the consequences or purposes of health misinformation and (2) studies that described empirical findings regarding the measurement of health misinformation on these platforms. Results: A total of 69 studies were identified as eligible, and they covered a wide range of health topics and social media platforms. The topics were articulated around the following six principal categories: vaccines (32%), drugs or smoking (22%), noncommunicable diseases (19%), pandemics (10%), eating disorders (9%), and medical treatments (7%). Studies were mainly based on the following five methodological approaches: social network analysis (28%), evaluating content (26%), evaluating quality (24%), content/text analysis (16%), and sentiment analysis (6%). Health misinformation was most prevalent in studies related to smoking products and drugs such as opioids and marijuana. Posts with misinformation reached 87% in some studies. Health misinformation about vaccines was also very common (43%), with the human papilloma virus vaccine being the most affected. Health misinformation related to diets or pro–eating disorder arguments were moderate in comparison to the aforementioned topics (36%). Studies focused on diseases (ie, noncommunicable diseases and pandemics) also reported moderate misinformation rates (40%), especially in the case of cancer. Finally, the lowest levels of health misinformation were related to medical treatments (30%). Conclusions: The prevalence of health misinformation was the highest on Twitter and on issues related to smoking products and drugs. However, misinformation on major public health issues, such as vaccines and diseases, was also high. Our study offers a comprehensive characterization of the dominant health misinformation topics and a comprehensive description of their prevalence on different social media platforms, which can guide future studies and help in the development of evidence-based digital policy action plans.
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Objective: Social distancing is crucial in order to flatten the curve of COVID-19 virus spreading. Isolation, scarcity of resources and the lack of social contacts may have produced a negative impact on people's emotions and psychological well-being. This study aims to explore the reasons and the ways through which social distancing generates negative emotions in individuals who experienced the lockdown. To a larger extent, the objective is to check the existence of relations between negative emotions and the satisfaction of basic needs. Materials and methods: In Italy 140,656 online interviews were collected from March 22 to April 2, 2020. Data analysis was carried out using mono and bivariate statistical analysis, K-means clustering and the Principal Components Analysis (PCA). The parameters for the identification of six clusters were: the intensity of the respondent's basic emotions and the layers of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Results: The majority of people involved in an emergency situation, implying a collapse of social contacts, experience some kind of emotional reactions. In our study, we found a correlation between basic emotions and Maslow's hierarchy of needs. In times of crisis, the most basic needs are the physiological ones. Fear, anger and sadness are predominant in all population groups; anger and disgust mainly appear when people are exposed to the risk of not being able to meet subsistence needs, thus perceiving a lack of economic security. Conclusions: The well-known Maslow's theory of human needs seems to fit well with the outbreak of negative emotions in the context of COVID-19. This study demonstrates the existence of links between negative emotions and primary needs that mainly refer to the first three levels of Maslow's pyramid. As a result of COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, many people have been sucked into the bottom layers of the pyramid. This change in individual basic needs has triggered a relevant transformation in individual emotional status and a shift towards negative emotions.
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Objectives: Transmission of infectious diseases is often prevented by quarantine and isolation of the populations at risk. These approaches restrict the mobility, social interactions, and daily activities of the affected individuals. In recent novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, quarantine and isolation are being adopted in many contexts, which necessitates an evaluation of global evidence on how such measures impact the mental health outcomes among populations. This umbrella review aimed to synthesize the available evidence on mental health outcomes of quarantine and isolation for preventing infectious diseases. Methods: We searched nine major databases and additional sources and included articles if they were systematically conducted reviews, published as peer-reviewed journal articles, and reported mental health outcomes of quarantine or isolation in any population. Results: Among 1364 citations, only eight reviews met our criteria. Most of the primary studies in those reviews were conducted in high-income nations and in hospital settings. These articles reported a high burden of mental health problems among patients, informal caregivers, and healthcare providers who experienced quarantine or isolation. Prevalent mental health problems among the affected individuals include depression, anxiety, mood disorders, psychological distress, posttraumatic stress disorder, insomnia, fear, stigmatization, low self-esteem, lack of self-control, and other adverse mental health outcomes. Conclusion: : This umbrella review found severe mental health problems among individuals and populations who have undergone quarantine and isolation in different contexts. This evidence necessitates multipronged interventions including policy measures for strengthening mental health services globally and promoting psychosocial wellbeing among high-risk populations.
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We introduce a typological characterization of possible human heterosexual couples in terms of the concordance-opposition of the orientations of their active and receptive areas as defined by the tie-up theory. We show that human mating incentives, as characterized by widely adopted approaches, such as Becker’s marriage market approach, only capture very specific instances of actual couples thus characterized. Our approach allows us to instead explore how super-cooperation among partners vs. convenience vs. constriction may be regarded as alternatives modes of couple formation and cohesion, leading to very different types of couples with different implications in terms of stability and resilience. Our results may have interesting implications for future experimental research and for individual and family counseling.
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Research on the psychology of paranormal, religious, and delusional belief has been stifled by a lack of careful distinction between anomalous experiences and their corresponding attributions. The Survey of Anomalous Experience (SAE; Irwin, Dagnall, & Drinkwater, 2013) addresses this nuance by measuring proneness to anomalous experience (PAE) and proneness to paranormal attribution (PPA). Using data (351 men, 1,026 women) from 7 previously published studies, we examined the SAE's internal validity via Rasch scaling and differential item functioning analyses. PPA showed good Rasch model fit and no item bias, but it lacked adequate reliability. Several PAE items showed misfit to the Rasch model or gender bias, though deleting 5 items produced a scale with acceptable reliability. Finally, we failed to validate a 3-category rating scale version with the goal of improving the SAE's psychometric properties. All 3 formulations revealed a secondary factor related to the items' extremity rather than contents, suggesting that future research should consider the intensity of respondents' anomalous experiences and paranormal attributions.
Objective: The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) poses an unprecedented threat to public health. Current measures to control the spread include social distancing and quarantine, which may trigger mental health problems. Design and Main Outcome Measures: The sample (N = 1160) constituted three groups: people quarantined in an affected area, unaffected areas, and people not in quarantine. The Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D-20) and the Goldberg Depression and Anxiety Scale (GAD-7) were administered as measures of depression and anxiety, respectively. The multi-variant logistic and multiple linear regression identified factors associated with depression and anxiety. Results: Probable depression and anxiety were reported by 26.47% and 70.78% of all respondents, respectively. After adjusting for demographic and community variables, quarantined respondents reported a higher likelihood to exhibit symptoms of depression and anxiety than those not quarantined. Respondents living in communities where screening for COVID-19 was required were less likely to report depression and anxiety symptoms. Conclusion: The incidence of depression and anxiety among quarantined respondents was significantly higher than that of respondents not quarantined, and twice as common among quarantined respondents in unaffected areas as those in affected areas. Appropriate community screening may reduce the risk of depression and anxiety during an epidemic.
Since its initial publication, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has been the object of criticism which has led to regular revisions by the American Psychiatric Association. This article analyses the debates that surrounded the publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Building on the concepts of public arenas and reception theory, it explores the meaning encoded in the manual by audiences. Our results, which draw from a thematic analysis of traditional and digital media sources, identify eight audiences that react to the American Psychiatric Association’s narrative of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.): conformist, reformist, humanist, culturalist, naturalist, conflictual, constructivist and utilitarian. While some of their claims present argumentative polarities, others overlap, thus challenging the idea, often presented in academic publications, of a fixed debate. In order to further discuss on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, we draw attention to claims that ‘travel’ across different communities of audiences.
The theory and practice of psychiatric diagnosis are central yet contentious. This paper examines the heterogeneous nature of categories within the DSM-5, how this heterogeneity is expressed across diagnostic criteria, and its consequences for clinicians, clients, and the diagnostic model. Selected chapters of the DSM-5 were thematically analysed: schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders; bipolar and related disorders; depressive disorders; anxiety disorders; and trauma- and stressor-related disorders. Themes identified heterogeneity in specific diagnostic criteria, including symptom comparators, duration of difficulties, indicators of severity, and perspective used to assess difficulties. Wider variations across diagnostic categories examined symptom overlap across categories, and the role of trauma. Pragmatic criteria and difficulties that recur across multiple diagnostic categories offer flexibility for the clinician, but undermine the model of discrete categories of disorder. This nevertheless has implications for the way cause is conceptualised, such as implying that trauma affects only a limited number of diagnoses despite increasing evidence to the contrary. Individual experiences and specific causal pathways within diagnostic categories may also be obscured. A pragmatic approach to psychiatric assessment, allowing for recognition of individual experience, may therefore be a more effective way of understanding distress than maintaining commitment to a disingenuous categorical system.