Last night’s fully moon may have had people behaving strangely, but don’t blame it on the moon, say researchers in a new study soon to appear in the December issue of the journal, General Hospital Psychiatry.
The researchers found little evidence that the moon’s lunar cycles were linked to an increased incidence of mental health concerns, dismissing the popular belief that there’s a connection between the moon and madness.
Nevertheless, according to at least one estimate, 80 percent of nurses and 64 percent of doctors who work in the emergency room believe it affects patients’ mental health.
In the study, researchers reviewed medical records from two hospitals in Montreal over a three-year period. They looked at nearly 800 patients who came to the emergency room for unexplained chest pains; thus, doctors didn’t know the cause of their heart problem.
Researchers studied unexplained chest pains because they’re not always relate to the heart, and people who have chest pains often suffer from many psychological difficulties, including panic attacks, anxiety and mood disorders, and suicidal thoughts.
Moreover, the research team was already conducting another study on panic attacks and unexplained chest pain. And the emergency room staff would often make comments, such as “This would be a good night for research because it’s a full moon,” says study researcher William Foldes-Busque, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada. So, experimenters knew some health professionals already had this perception in their heads, but they wanted to see if the idea had any truth to it.
After patients completed a mental health evaluation, scientists then analyzed data to find out if their psychological symptoms revealed any seasonal patterns or lunar phase influence. Researchers were able to determine which one of the moon’s four phases – new moon, first quarter, full moon, or last quarter – was present on the day each patient came to the emergency room.
The study found that lunar cycle had no influence on the occurrence of psychological problems, such as panic attacks, anxiety and mood disorders, or suicidal thoughts. The only exception was a 32% drop in the frequency of anxiety disorders during the moon’s last quarter.
“We don’t know for sure why this happened,” says Foldes-Busque.
Other studies have looked at admissions to psychiatric hospitals, calls to crisis hotlines, or homicide rates, and also failed to turn up a link between the moon’s illumination and behavior changes. However, it was the health professionals and police officers who said they believed there was more nuttiness and craziness during a full moon.
Foldes-Busque says it’s possible the moon affects mental health in other ways. “I’ve heard that the full moon may affect sleep, mostly because of increased luminosity,” he says.
His advice for the next full moon is straightfoward: “Don’t do anything special or change anything because of it.”