Lunar effect

Lunar effect

The lunar effect is the theory that there is correlation between specific stages of the Earth's lunar cycle and deviant behavior in human beings. In spite of numerous studies, no significant lunar effect on human behaviour has been established,[1] and many researchers claim this persistent belief has no basis in fact.[2]

The theory is sometimes also referred to as the Transylvanian hypothesis or the Transylvanian effect in scholarly literature.[2]



The exact origins of this theory are unknown, since it predates written history. The belief is known to have been around for many centuries, however.[citation needed] The term lunacy itself is derived from the Latin word Luna, meaning "moon". Perhaps the most famous myth arising from this theory is the legend of the werewolf.

Scientific research on theory

Some studies seem to offer limited support for lunar effects.[3] Several studies concluded that schizophrenic patients show signs of deterioration, in terms of quality of life and mental well-being, during the time of a full moon,[4] and that those with mental disorders generally exhibit periods of increased violent or aggressive episodes during the full moon.[5][6] Conversely, other studies indicated that there was no such correlation.[7]

Another study found a statistically significant correlation between the lunar effect and hospital admissions due to gastrointestinal bleeding, particularly among males. However, there was very wide variation in the number of admissions throughout the lunar cycle, which the researchers acknowledged limited the interpretation of the results.[8]

Sallie Baxendale and Jennifer Fisher of University College London hypothesized that the impact of the moon phase on epileptic seizures may be due to the moon's contribution to nocturnal illumination. [9] A significant negative correlation between the mean number of seizures and the fraction of the moon illuminated by the sun (ρ = -0.09, P < 0.05) was found in 1571 seizures recorded in a dedicated epilepsy inpatient unit over 341 days. This correlation disappeared when the local clarity of the night sky was controlled for, suggesting that it may be the brightness of the night and the contribution the moon phase makes to nocturnal luminance that influence the occurrence of epileptic seizures.

Psychologist Ivan Kelly of the University of Saskatchewan (with James Rotton and Roger Culver) carried out a meta-analysis of thirty-seven studies that examined relationships between the moon's four phases and human behavior in 1996. The meta-analysis revealed no significant correlation. They also checked twenty-three studies that had claimed to show correlation, and nearly half of these contained at least one statistical error.[10]

A study of 4,190 suicides in Sacramento County over a 58-year period showed no correlation to the phase of the moon. A 1992 paper by Martens, Kelly, and Saklofske reviewed twenty studies examining correlations between Moon phase and suicides. Most of the twenty studies found no correlation and the ones that did report positive results were inconsistent with each other.[10]

Psychiatrist Arnold Lieber of the University of Miami reported a correlation of homicides in Dade County to moon phase, but later analysis of the data — including that by astronomer George Abell — did not support Lieber's conclusions. Kelly, Rotton, and Culver point out that Lieber and Carolyn Sherin used inappropriate and misleading statistical procedures. When more appropriate tests were done, no correlation between homicides and the phase of the moon was found.

Astronomer Daniel Caton analyzed 70,000,000 birth records from the National Center for Health Statistics, and found no correlation between an increased birth rate and the full moon phase.[11] Kelly, Rotton, and Culver report that Caton examined 45,000,000[citation needed] births and found a weak peak around the third quarter phase of the Moon, while the full moon and new moon phases had an average or slightly below average birth rate.

In 1959 Walter and Abraham Menaker reported that a study of over 510,000 births in New York City showed a 1 percent increase in births in the two weeks following the full moon. In 1967 Walter Menaker studied another 500,000 births in New York City, and found a 1 percent increase in births in the two-week period centered on the full moon. In 1973 M. Osley, D. Summerville, and L. B. Borst studied another 500,000 births in New York City, and they reported a 1 percent increase in births before the full moon. In 1957 Rippmann analyzed 9,551 births in Danville, PA and found no correlation between the birth rate and the phase of the moon.[12]

A fifteen month study in Jacksonville, Florida revealed no lunar effect on crime and hospital room admittance. In particular:

  • There was no increase in crime on full moons, according to a statistical analysis by the Jacksonville Police Department. Five of the fifteen full moons had a higher than average rate of crime while ten full moons had a lower than average rate. The higher-than-average days were during warmer months.
  • Statistical analysis of visits to Shands Hospital emergency room showed no full moon effect. Emergency room admissions may have more to do with the day of the week.[13]

Religion and folklore

Across the world, there has been an abundance of pseudoscientific theories and superstitions based on this premise. One theory claims that the moon has a perceived relationship to fertility due to the corresponding human menstrual cycle, which averages 28 days.[1] The cycle of lunar phases is 29.53 days long. However, only about 30 percent of women have a cycle length within two days of the average.[citation needed]

According to some traditions, prior to the advent of modern techniques, surgeons would supposedly refuse to operate on the full moon because of the increased risk of death of the patient through blood loss.[14]

In the news

As with most folklore and urban legends, the notion behind the lunar effect has also found its way into the news. For example, it has been alleged that the full moon may have influenced voter behavior in the US 2000 presidential election.[15]

Police in Toledo, Ohio claimed that crime rises by five percent during nights with a full moon,[16][17] while police in Kentucky have also blamed temporary rises in crime on the full moon.[18]

Senior police officers in Brighton announced in June 2007 that they were planning to deploy more officers over the summer to counter trouble they believe is linked to the lunar cycle.[19] In January 2008, New Zealand's Justice Minister Annette King suggested that a spate of stabbings in the country could have been caused by the lunar cycle.[20] In October 2009, British politician David Tredinnick asserted that during a full moon "[s]urgeons will not operate because blood clotting is not effective and the police have to put more people on the street."[21]. A spokesman for the Royal College of Surgeons said they would "laugh their heads off" at the suggestion they could not operate at the full moon. [22]


  1. ^ a b Robert Todd, Carroll (12 August 2011). "Full Moon and Lunar Effects". The Skeptic's Dictionary. Retrieved 22 October 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Iosif, A. & Ballon, B. (2005). Bad moon rising: the persistent belief in lunar connections to madness. CMAJ, 173, 1498-1500.
  3. ^ Chudler, E. (1998–2011). Neuroscience for kids: Moonstruck! Does the full moon influence behaviour? Retrieved from here, September 26, 2011
  4. ^ Barr, W. (2000). Lunacy revisited: The influence of the moon on mental health and quality of life. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Service, 38, 28-35.
  5. ^ Drum, M., Terry, C., &Hammonds, C., (1986, October). Lunar phase and acting-out behaviour. Phycol Rep, 59(2PT2), 987-990. Retrieved from here, September 24, 2011
  6. ^ Lieber, A. (1978, May). Human aggression and the lunar synodic cycle. J Clin Psychiatry, 39(5); 385- 392. Retrieved from here, September 24, 2011
  7. ^ Owen, C., Tarantello, C., Jones, M., & Tennant, C., (1998, August). Lunar cycles and violent behaviour. Aust NZ J Psychiatry, 32(4); 496-499. Retrieved from here, September, 24, 2011
  8. ^ Roman, E.M., Soriano, G., Fuentes, M., Luz-Galvez, & M.,Fernandez, C. (2004). The influence of the full moon on the number of admissions related to gastrointestinal bleeding. International Journal of Nursing Practice. 10(6), 296.
  9. ^ Epilepsy & Behavior, Vol 13(3), Oct 2008. pp. 549-550
  10. ^ a b Kelly, Ivan; Rotton, James; Culver, Roger (1986), "The Moon Was Full and Nothing Happened: A Review of Studies on the Moon and Human Behavior", Skeptical Inquirer 10 (2): 129–43 . Reprinted in The Hundredth Monkey - and other paradigms of the paranormal, edited by Kendrick Frazier, Prometheus Books. Revised and updated in The Outer Edge: Classic Investigations of the Paranormal, edited by Joe Nickell, Barry Karr, and Tom Genoni, 1996, CSICOP.
  11. ^ Caton, Dan (2001). Natality and the Moon Revisited: Do Birth Rates Depend on the Phase of the Moon?, Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, Vol 33, No. 4, 2001, p. 1371. Overview of the paper.
  12. ^ Abell, George; Greenspan, Bennett (1979), "The Moon and the Maternity Ward", Skeptical Inquirer 3 (4): 17–25  Reprinted in Paranormal Borderlands of Science, edited by Kendrick Frazier, Prometheus Books, ISBN 0-87975-148-7.
  13. ^ Marshall, Konrad (2007-05-02), "Must be a Full Moon", The Florida Times-Union: C–1, 
  14. ^ Roman, E.M., Soriano, G., Fuentes, M., Luz-Galvez, M.,Fernandez, C. (2004) The influence of the full moon on the number of admissions related to gastrointestinal bleeding. International Journal of Nursing Practice. Vol. 10;6, p296.
  15. ^ #Y127; 24% of the U.S. Presidential Vote swayed by the Full Moon effect
  16. ^ - Analysis shines light on full moon, crime
  17. ^ Skeptic's Dictionary and Refuge: Mass Media Bunk
  18. ^ "Police busy for full moon". The Kentucky Post (E. W. Scripps Company). 2002-01-29. Archived from the original on 2007-07-06. 
  19. ^ Attewill, Fred (2007-06-05). "Police link full moon to aggression". The Guardian (London).,,2095945,00.html. Retrieved 2010-05-11. 
  20. ^ "Link between moon and crime supported - national". 2008-02-07. Retrieved 2011-07-11. 
  21. ^ Hansard, 14 Oct 2009 : Column 414
  22. ^ Ian Douglas (October 11th, 2010). "MPs believe the funniest things". Daily Telegraph. 

See also


  • Berman, Bob (2003). Fooled by the Full Moon - Scientists search for the sober truth behind some loony ideas, Discover, September 2003, page 30.
  • Diefendorf, David (2007), Amazing... But false! Hundreds of "facts" you thought were true, but aren't, Sterling Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4027-3791-6 
  • Sanduleak, Nicholas (1985). The Moon is Acquitted of Murder in Cleveland, Skeptical Inquirer, Spring 1985, 236-42. Reprinted in Science Confronts the Paranormal, edited by Kendrick Frazier, Prometheus Books, ISBN 0-87975-314-5.

External links

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