Full moon doesn't trigger madness

Posted by Kate Taylor

As many as 80 percent of nurses and 64 percent of doctors believe there's a connection between the phases of the moon and mental health. But they're wrong, says a psychology professor.

Professor Geneviève Belleville of Université Laval's School of Psychology examined the relationship between the moon's phases and the number of patients who show up at hospital emergency rooms experiencing psychological problems.

Her team evaluated patients who visited emergency rooms at Montreal's Sacré-Coeur Hospital and Hôtel-Dieu de Lévis between March 2005 and April 2008, focusing specifically on 771 individuals who showed up at the emergency room with chest pains for which no medical cause could be found.

Psychological evaluations revealed that a sizeable number of these patients suffered from panic attacks, anxiety and mood disorders or suicidal thoughts.

But a comparison with the lunar calendar revealed no link between the incidence of psychological problems and the four lunar phases - with just one exception. Anxiety disorders were 32 percent less frequent during the last lunar quarter.

"This may be coincidental or due to factors we did not take into account," says Belleville. "But one thing is certain: we observed no full-moon or new-moon effect on psychological problems."

Medical professionals should be aware of this, says 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," she warns.