February 9, 2010
Depressed People Feel More Gray Than Blue
People with anxiety and depression are most likely to use a shade of gray to represent their mental state. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Medical Research Methodology describe the development of a color chart, The Manchester Color Wheel, which can be used to study people's preferred pigment in relation to their state of mind.
Peter Whorwell, Professor of Medicine and Gastroenterology at University Hospital South Manchester, worked with a team of researchers from the University of Manchester, UK, to create an instrument that would allow people a choice of colors in response to questions. He said, "Colors are frequently used to describe emotions, such as being 'green with envy' or 'in the blues'. Although there is a large, often anecdotal, literature on color preferences and the relationship of color to mood and emotion, there has been relatively little serious research on the subject".
A separate group of healthy volunteers were also asked whether they associated any of the colors with positive or negative moods. According to Whorwell, "When we used these results to separate colors into positive, negative and neutral groups, we found that depressed individuals showed a striking preference for negative colors compared to healthy controls. Anxious individuals gave results intermediate to those observed in depression, with negative colors being chosen more frequently as well as positive colors being chosen less frequently than in the control test".
The Color Wheel provides a unique way of asking patients about their condition that dispenses with the need for language.
* The Manchester Color Wheel: development of a novel way of identifying color choice and its validation in healthy, anxious and depressed individuals. Helen R Carruthers, Julie Morris, Nicholas Tarrier and Peter J Whorwell. BMC Medical Research Methodology (in press)
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