Saturday, February 18, 2006

Lunar Lunacy?

The ICU nurses are a smart bunch. Observant too. Which is why when they talk about certain superstitions, it makes one think twice.

Like the one about full moon = havoc in the hospital.

Some of the nurses have been around many years and they have years of experience to back this claim. Even my relatively limited experience on overnight calls bring to mind nights of madness on what was retrospectively verified to be full/new moon periods. Folk wisdom dating back thousands of years also describes strange behavior with the phases of the moon.

Apparently people have tried to study this over the years --

Here are some interesting studies:
BMJ. 2000 Dec 23-30;321(7276):1559-61.

1,621 patients over 3 year period in England who were bitten by either a cat, rat, horse or dog: the incidence of animal bites was significantly higher around the full moon.

Compr Psychiatry. 1977 Jul-Aug;18(4):369-74.

The admission records of 18,495 patients to a psychiatric hospital in an 11-year period: admissions for psychosis were highest during the new moon and lowest during the full moon.

J Clin Psychiatry. 1978 May;39(5):385-92.

11,613 cases of aggravated assault in a 5-year period: assaults occurred more often around the full moon.

J. Psychology, vol. 93:81-83, 1976.

34,318 crimes in a 1-year period: crimes occurred more frequently during the full moon

University of Miami, psychologist Arnold Lieber et al.
Data on homicide in Dade County (Miami) over a period of 15 years: correlated incidence of homicide with the phases of the moon - the two rose and fell together for the entire 15 years

Repeated the experiment using murder data from Cuyahoga County in Ohio (Cleveland) with similar findings.

American Institute of Medical Climatology to the Philadelphia Police Department entitled The Effect of the Full Moon on Human Behavior found similar results.


Although I've only listed some supportive studies, the data is mixed. Some suggest there is a relationship and others have not found a relationship. Due to the heterogeneity of the studies, and the presence of confounding variables, it's hard to say how good the data is. People who disagree raise interesting criticisms, and I don't think there's adequate data to determine a causal link between the two. But although medical training teaches us to be critical and objective and accept nothing less than randomized controlled trial results, there's something to be said for intuition and observations made over the years. After all, it's gotten people worked up enough to spend time researching the topic! :)


Blogger teni said...

interesting thoughts, I randomly ran across the blog and something caught my attention so I read all of your posts.

I share the exact same thoughts you detailed in your first post about wanting to write down some things but not being sure that an open space like a blog with random people reading it is the right place. I actually wrote a few posts on my blog and deleted them before finally deciding to just write what I wanted to and see what happens.

I think you should keep writing your thoughts in the blog. It's interesting to hear this perspective on life/death, and also a good reminder not to be desensitized to those aspects of life we are exposed to so often they become commonplace.

I have no idea what a "code" is, but it does sound like something I should be educated about.

A long comment just to say - some random stranger read your blog and learned a little.

4:59 PM  

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