Lunacy during the full moon urban myth: researchers

A new study out of Quebec claims to debunk the urban legend that lunacy and mental health issues are more common during phases of the full moon.

It’s a popular myth perpetuated by fairy tales and werewolves, and validated by 80 percent of nurses and 64 of doctors surveyed by the Université Laval who said they’re convinced that the lunar cycle affects patients’ mental health.

The full moon has been blamed for everything from inducing more labor in pregnant women, driving up rates of suicide, homicide, erratic behavior, psychiatric hospital admissions and emergency room calls.

But in their study, published in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry, researchers concluded that there is no connection between lunar phases and psychological problems, after looking at 771 patients who made emergency room visits between 2005 and 2008 complaining of medically inexplicable chest pains.

A sizable number of these patients suffered from panic attacks, anxiety, mood disorders and suicidal thoughts.

After looking at the lunar calendar, researchers found no link between the incidence of psychological incidents and the phases of the moon, with one exception: anxiety disorders were 32 percent less frequent during the last lunar quarter.

The results of their study are significant, researchers say, and should encourage physicians to abandon these misguided beliefs.

"We hope our results will encourage health professionals to put that idea to rest," said lead author Geneviève 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."

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