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Got the Blues…How About the Greys? Depressed People Say Shades of Grey Better Describes Their Moods

When asked to select a color from a color wheel that best describes the way they feel, people with anxiety and with depression tend to choose a shade of grey.

Researchers at the University of Manchester and the University Hospital South Manchester wanted to investigate ‘the blues’ and find out how a little more about how color relates to mood and mental illness – to investigate whether there is in fact any truth to the expression ‘getting the blues’.

They used a color chart called the Manchester Color Wheel, which can be used to match emotional states to a selection of color; and they compared how healthy (without anxiety or depression) control subjects related to the color wheel with how anxious and depressed subjects related to it.

All subjects were asked to select:

  1. The color they liked best
  2. The one they were most drawn to
  3. The color that best represented the way they were feeling

The Results:

  • Both healthy and depressed or anxious subjects preferred shades of blue as the most liked and shades of yellow as the color that they were most drawn to – but while healthy subjects chose shades of yellow to describe present mood, depressed or anxious subjects choose shades of grey to describe their mood.

The researchers say that with further testing and research, the color wheel could become a tool used to gauge a person’s mood and the possible presence of a mood disorder, with a minimal requirement for spoken language.

The full research findings can be read in the journal, BMC Medical Research Methodology.

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