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Does the Moon Really Affect Your Moods? Your Health? Your Sanity? Your Fangs?

There's something about a full moon that conjures up spooky images of werewolves, insane ax-wielding murderers and other odd and unexplainable behaviors. Everything from horror films to Halloween cards has capitalized on this phenomenon, making it almost commonplace in our minds. But does the moon really affect human behavior, or does this notion only exist in our imaginations?

One study in Florida found that murder rates increase when there's a full moon.

The Moon and Murder

Ever heard the term "lunacy"? It's actually defined in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary as "intermittent insanity once believed to be related to phases of the moon." In fact, in England in the 18th century, a person who committed a murder during a full moon could plead "lunacy" and get a lighter sentence.

Back in the 1970s, a study was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry that found some interesting results. Homicides in Dade County, Florida appeared to rise and fall with the phases of the moon over a 15-year period. In other words, the murder rate rose with the full or new moon.

The study's author, psychiatrist Arnold Lieber, theorized that since humans are composed mostly of water (like the earth), our bodies might have "biological tides" that influence our emotions. He even wrote a book about it called "How the Moon Affects You."

Medical Workers Unite Against the Full Moon

Hospital workers especially seem to notice increases in strange behaviors with the full moon. A study published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine in 1987 found that 80 percent of emergency room nurses and 64 percent of physicians agree that the moon affects their patients' behavior. In fact, the nurses were so overwhelmed by their workload during the full moon that they asked for bonus "lunar pay."

Another study in 1995 by the University of New Orleans found that 43 percent of participants believed in the moon's affect on behavior. Who agreed most strongly?

  • Mental health professionals

  • Social workers

  • Clinical psychologists with master's degrees

  • Nurse's aides

Full Moon Means More New Mothers?

"It's not supported by empirical evidence," said Debbie Fugett, a labor and delivery nurse at CoxHealth. "But on the night when there's a full moon, we're just a little bit nervous of what to expect."

Some experts say our culture just uses the full moon as a scapegoat for strange behaviors.

Many hospital workers express similar notions; that when the moon is full, there are more admissions for everything from births to violent crimes.

But, when put to the test, no link was found, according to a study in the May 2005 American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In a review of more than 500,000 births in North Carolina, no link was found between births and the lunar cycle.

"We really don't know what starts the process of labor, but we do know that whatever it is, it probably has nothing to do with the phases of the moon ... So while it may be fun to consider the full moon closest to your due date as the future 'birthday' for your baby, you'd have as good a chance of being right as throwing a dart at your calendar," said co-author Shelley L. Galvin.

Is it All Just Hype?

Ivan Kelly, a Canadian psychologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, has published 15 papers on the lunar effect and reviewed more than 50 others (one of which involved 200 studies).

"My own opinion is that the case for full moon effects has not been made ... The studies are not consistent. For every positive study, there is a negative study," he said.

Indeed, it does appear that many studies contradict each other. An English study, for instance, found that your odds of being bitten by an animal were twice as high on full-moon nights. Another similar study, this one in Australia, found no relationship whatsoever between dog bites and the full moon.

Is it possible that we, as a culture, like the idea of a mysterious moon-related power, and are pushing the myth forward because we want to? It could be, according to Eric Chudler, a psychologist at the University of Washington in Seattle.

"When something unusual happens and there is a full moon, people might notice the moon and assign blame," he said.

Although medical workers throughout the nation may disagree, Scott Brandhorst, a licensed psychologist at the Robert J. Murney Clinic of Forest Institute of Professional Psychology expressed a similar sentiment.

"It's one of the myths that have been passed along through generations ... We, as a society, use the full moon to account for someone's behavior," he said.

Recommended Reading

The Six Worst Lifestyle Choices You Could Make

Why are More Boys than Girls Being Born?


Open Mind

National Geographic News

News Leader

Reuters: Births do Not Rise During Full Moon

Full Moon and Human Behavior

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