“Is it a full moon?” my son asked a while back as he dragged himself in the door after another late shift at Wawa. “I think it had to be. People were crazy tonight.” Sure enough, the moon was full. I felt a little proud; I was the one who first informed him that he could expect wild behavior at work when the moon got big and round. Everybody knows insanity is tied to the lunar cycle, right? The pull of the tides, werewolves, increases in crime and suicide, and havoc at the touchscreens in Wawa … Why else do you think they call it “lunacy”?
Well, Jake, my dear, it turns out your mom told you another whopper, just like that little canard about Santa Claus. A team of French researchers recently concluded a major study reported at Science Daily of nearly 800 patients showing up at emergency rooms with chest pains that proved to have no medical basis. Doctors examining them determined that many of the patients were experiencing mental disorders—panic or anxiety attacks, mood disorders, thoughts of suicide. The researchers correlated the patients’ emergency-room arrivals with the phases of the moon. And they discovered … nothing. There was no statistical link between any of the moon’s four phases and the admittances—with one notable exception: Anxiety disorders decreased in the fourth quarter, a.k.a. the waning moon. According to study director Geneviève Belleville, “We observed no full-moon or new-moon effect on psychological problems.”
If you’ve spent your life believing there was such an effect, you’re in good company: 80 percent of nurses and 64 percent of doctors say the moon is tied to psychological behavior. Belleville hopes her study may refocus their attention from the skies to other factors affecting patients’ health.