Full Moon Madness?
My sister is an emergency room nurse and is convinced that the full moon has an influence on people. Do you think that's true?
The word "lunatic" comes from "lunar" (which Webster's defines as "of, or relating to the moon"). Many of us have the long-standing belief that violent, aggressive, or "crazy" behavior increases when the moon is full. Think of the werewolves in the legends and folklore that disturbed us as children. While the "full moon effect" hasn't stood up to scientific scrutiny, many health professionals absolutely agree with your sister.
A 1995 study at the University of New Orleans asked 325 subjects whether lunar phenomena alters people's behavior. They found that 43 percent of the people surveyed were convinced that it does. Those who believed this most strongly were mental health professionals, including social workers, clinical psychologists with master's degrees, and nurse's aides. An earlier study, published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine in 1987, found that 80 percent of emergency room nurses and 64 percent of physicians believe the moon affects their patients. The nurses said they found their work so stressful when the moon is full that they suggested "lunar pay" differentials!
Many medical personnel may believe that a full moon "makes people crazy," but studies designed to confirm this widespread conviction don't necessarily support it. When researchers at a mental health center in Massachusetts tracked psychiatric hospital admissions in search of a lunar effect, they found only a tiny, insignificant upward blip when the moon was full.
Incidentally, obstetricians also tend to believe that pregnant women are more likely to deliver during full moons than other times in the lunar cycle. A 1997 Italian study found deliveries did cluster around the full moon among women who had several children -- but not among those who were giving birth for the first time. An earlier Italian study of home deliveries found no increase in births when the moon was full. Again, no clear proof of the moon's effect.
Since this isn't the most pressing issue in medicine, not very much has been written about it. The few studies that do exist are not the final words on the subject. Tell your sister that she may very well be right.