Banner
    Does A Full Moon Mean More Psychological Problems?
    By Hank Campbell | November 19th 2012 12:29 PM | 5 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone...

    View Hank's Profile
    The moon is both easy and tough to figure out. Of the many things Galileo got wrong, the moon was the biggest, despite it being studied for millenia by then, unless you think we only have one tide per day.  And last year some people wanted to believe an earthquake in Japan was caused by a 'Supermoon', where our friend Luna was slightly closer to us.

    Animals howl at the moon, drunken hillbillies howl at the moon - though those are not limited to the full moon or any moon at all. Yet the full moon issue is so well known it even gets a monster attributed to it. Writers as far back as Ovid discussed werewolves so they likely existed in popular culture even before then. In 1 A.D. he wrote the Metamorphoses and told us of King Lycaon, who served human flesh to the gods and in return got turned into a werewolf.  From Ovid and Lycaon we got the word Lycanthrope.

    Heck, even words like “lunatic” and “loony” are derived from Luna. The legendary Farmers’ Almanac publishes a Best Days calendar which even recommends certain days to do everything from planting potatoes to cutting hair based on the phases of the Moon. 

    But does the full moon really change how we act?  Researchers decided to find out.  They cross-matched emergency room psychological problems with full moons at Montreal's Sacré-Coeur Hospital and Hôtel-Dieu de Lévis during the months between March of 2005 and April of 2008. The psychological problems they found were 771 people who came to the emergency room with chest pains but had no physical issue. Instead, some were found to have mood disorders, suicidal thoughts or panic attacks.


    Please stop blaming me for your idiots - Love, The Moon. Credit: Shutterstock.

    Was there a link between a full moon and the psychological disorders?  Not at all, but they did find that anxiety disorders happened 32% less in the last lunar quarter - the "half moon"when the moon is at a 90 degree angle with respect to the earth and sun.  And more panic attacks occurred in the spring while anxiety attacks happened in the summer. Nothing to do with moons, though. "This may be coincidental or due to factors we did not take into account," said Professor Geneviève Belleville of Université Laval's School of Psychology in a press release. "But one thing is certain: we observed no full-moon or new-moon effect on psychological problems."

    Maybe not in Canada today, though it may be that less sleep deprivation today is a factor in modern times.  If you were already slightly loony  (A double pun!  Thanks, Canada) getting less sleep during the brighter moon may have added to the weirdness. Widespread adoption of electric lighting would have evened that out.

    What was interesting is that 80% of Canadian nurses and 64% of Canadian doctors do believe that the lunar cycle impacts mental health. "We hope our results will encourage health professionals to put that idea to rest," said Belleville. "Otherwise, this misperception could, on the one hand, color their judgment during the full moon phase; or, on the other hand, make them less attentive to psychological problems that surface during the remainder of the month."


    Those "Twilight" movies are certainly not helping things either.

    Citation: Geneviève Belleville, Guillaume Foldes-Busque, Mélanie Dixon, Évelyne Marquis-Pelletier, Sarah Barbeau, Julien Poitras, Jean-Marc Chauny, Jean G. Diodati, Richard Fleet, André Marchand, 'Impact of seasonal and lunar cycles on psychological symptoms in the ED: an empirical investigation of widely spread beliefs', doi:10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2012.10.002

    Comments

    dorigo
    Hello Hank,

    the full moon has also been claimed to impact the number of births. I discussed that belief in the article "Supernatural Coincidences and the Look-Elsewhere Effect" a couple of years ago here.

    Here I'd like to point out my posting of today, which discusses the search for correlations in psychological analysis, and the point which is made by Cohen: the nil hypothesis is always false. What this means is that to some extent everything depends on everything else. This "some extent" is usually a tiny, ridiculously tiny, or unmeasurably tiny amount, but still, we have to take it into account when we test a nil hypothesis ("there is no correlation between lunar phase and schizophrenia" or such). Cohen has another fun quote in the paper I quoted today:

    "Recall my example of the highly significant correlation between height and intelligence in 14,000 school children that translated into a regression coefficient that meant that to raise a child's IQ from 100 to 130 would require giving enough growtho hormone to raise his or her height by 14 feet".

    Cheers,
    T.
    Hank
    We're always looking for 'the perfect metaphor' to make a concept understandable and Cohen may have it.
    I heard Madame Belleville on 98.5 fm, a french speaking radio station. She made a great work. The full moon effects was only a small part of her studies.

    It is funny to see that lot of intelligent health workers are impressed by legends, but happily, there are records to light up us.

    It get worse than vampires. Much worse! We can thank the 'Full Moon Effect' for giving us President GW Bush: Behold!. Not good enough for you, Mr. Science? Check out the detailed graphs, charts, algorithms and what-nots! Science. It works, Bitches!

    Next time before putting up blatantly ANT-science tripe you should do a little research. . . just makes you look silly.

    Hank
    Not sure what entomology has to do with anything but your comment makes at least as much sense as those crackpots claiming there is a genetic basis for how people vote, so, sure, believe that the full moon elected a president if it helps.