The Lunar Effect
Earth's Lunar Cycle and Deviant Behavior in Human Beings and Other Animals

The Lunar Effect - Full Moon Effects
Earth's Lunar Cycle and Deviant Behavior in Human Beings and Other Animals 

The lunar effect is a theory that suggests that there is a correlation between specific stages of the Earth's lunar cycle and deviant behavior in human beings.

The claims of a correlation of lunar phases to animal behavior, and to a much lesser extent human behavior, have considerable scientific basis.

This belief has been around for many centuries. The term lunacy itself is derived from Luna, "the Moon" in Latin. The connection between the words lunar and lunatic can also be demonstrated in other languages.

Police officers, doctors, and emergency crews, just like the rest of the population more than likely have an opinion about the moon's effect on human behavior.

"When it's a little bit warmer and the moon is out. Definitely there are going to be more people out in the streets, for some reason it's just a combination of both," veteran Odessa Police Sergeant Eddie Vallejo says warm weather and a full moon factor into a busy night.

It's a loaded topic. If you search long enough you will find a study to match every belief.

Officer Pete Gonzales says just about any night can turn into a busy shift, but he's not sure the moon is always to blame. "A lot of times your going from call to call." Officer Gonzales said, "Usually, the weekends tend to be busier than the week days."

When NewsWest 9 asked about the full moon, Officer Gonzales smiled and shrugged. "I don't really know. There are a lot of people who tend to think activity tends to pick up during a full moon and some people don't believe it," he said.

During a June 18th ride along with Officer Gonzales, he made three arrests. Some Law enforcement agents NewsWest 9 spoke to during the research for this story said weather, holidays, and even paydays can increase crime rates.

"I do believe in it, because we do see it and as many years as I've been doing it, I have seen it," Sgt. Vallejo said, "The moon does play a role in people's aggression."

According, to an article on, a study printed 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."

"We would have these crazy nights and somebody would go whoa is this a full moon? We would go out and check and sure enough," said Dr. Judi Stondale who specializes in forensic psychiatry.

"I don't know statistically but certainly in my experience. It has been true," Dr. Stonedale said, who says lack of sleep drives mania or hyperactive behavior, and she says if someone is out and up later this may contribute to lunacy once associated with a full moon.

"It seemed like we would see more substance abuse," she said, "More people are out. More alcohol abuse, more crazy behavior, and it turns out you see them in the E.R."

Dr. Rahul Bhonghir, a third year resident in Odessa says coming from an Indian background he never imagined Americans would hold similar views about the moon. "My perspective was that here a developed country like the United States, I thought people would turn away from that, but I see that there is a common thing that all people share for things we have no control on." Dr. Bhonghir said.

Full Moon Effect: Fact or Fiction?

One study often cited by full moon believers was printed in the Journal for Clinical Psychiatry in May 1978. In the article, A.L. Lieber examined the relationship between the moon's phases and human aggression.

Another study, discussed in an article found on said a review of more than 100 studies conducted by Ivan Kelly, James Rotton and Roger Culver in 1996, "failed to show a reliable and significant correlation," between the moon's effect on behavior including, "homicide rates, traffic, accidents, crisis calls, and other violence."

NewsWest 9 looked at hospital admittance rates at Medical Center Hospital in June. The full moon was Wednesday, June 18th.

Emergency room staff admitted 47 patients the first Wednesday in June. June 11th, they admitted 32 patients. June 18th, the hospital staff admitted 36 patients and the last Wednesday in June, June 25th, the hospital admitted 34 new patients.

The busiest night was by far June 4th, not a full moon.

A representative from the Ector County Detention Center gave NewsWest 9 data going back to 2004, the numbers did not reflect a trend, but the employee said despite the numbers, there just might be "something" to the full moon's effect on human behavior.

The lunar effect is a pseudoscientific theory which overlaps into sociology, psychology and physiology suggesting that there is correlation between specific stages of the Ea
rth's lunar cycle and deviant behavior in human beings.

The claims of a correlation of lunar phases to human behavior do not hold up under scientific scrutiny.

Over the past 30 years, even more evidence has emerged to stress that this is pseudoscience. The theory is sometimes also referred to as the Transylvanian hypothesis or the Transylvanian effect in scholarly literature.

The exact origins of this theory are ambiguous historically, because paleolithic moon artifacts from many cultures predate written history. This belief has been around for many centuries. The term lunacy itself is derived from the name of Luna, the Roman moon goddess.

The connection between the words lunar and
lunatic can also be demonstrated in other languages, such as in Welsh, where these two words are lloer and lloerig. Perhaps the most famous myth arising from this theory is the legend of the werewolf.

Some studies support the possibility of a lunar effect. For example, a study 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. Some researchers have studied positive correlations between physiological changes such as induced seizures in epileptic patients and non-epileptic subjects, and the full moon period.

A 2004 study found a statistically significant correlation between the lunar effect and hospital admissions due to gastrointestinal bleeding, particularly among males.

Other studies refute assertions of a lunar effect.

In a study published by Epilepsy & Behavior, Sallie Baxendale and Jennifer Fisher of University College London hypothesized that if the moon phase were influential on epileptic seizures that this would be due to the moon's contribution to nocturnal illumination, rather than its waxing or waning state, and that significant correlations would not be apparent if local cloud cover were controlled for.

A significant negative correlation between the mean number of seizures and the fraction of the moon illuminated by the sun 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 is the brightness of the night and the contribution the moon phase makes to nocturnal luminance, rather than the moon phase, that may influence the occurrence of epileptic seizures.

The Light of the Full Moon

Police have linked full moons to a rise in aggressive behavior among people on the streets of Sydney. Senior officers have decided to deploy more police this summer to counter trouble they believe is linked to the lunar cycle.

A Surrey Hills police spokeswoman said today: "Research carried out by us has shown a correlation between violent incidents and full moons."

Another monthly factor which police chiefs identified as fueling violence in pubs and nightclubs in Sydney and Hove was pay days. Inspector Andy Parr told the Sun Herald paper he would be interested in discussing the police findings with academics.

He said: "I compared a graph of full moons and a graph of last year's violent crimes and there is a trend. People tend to be more aggressive."

"I would be interested in approaching universities and seeing if any of their postgraduates would be interested in looking into it further. This could be helpful to us."

Kings Cross bouncer Terry Wing agreed with the theory. "It's so true. When there is a full moon out we look at the sky and say: 'Oh no, all the idiots will be out tonight.' I will start looking at the back of people's hands for hair next time." The link between full moons and extremes of human behavior has been identified in past studies.

In 1998, a three-month psychological study of 1,200 inmates at Long Bay jail discovered a rise in violent incidents during the days on either side of a full moon. During the first and last quarter of each lunar month there was a marked increase in violent incidents. During the remaining part of the month there were far fewer incidents and none at all on some days.

The Oxford English dictionary defines "lunatic" as "affected with the kind of insanity that was supposed to have recurring periods, depending on changes of the moon". However, any link between the lunar cycle and human behavior has yet to be explained scientifically.

Psychologist Ivan Kelly of the University of Saskatchewan (with James Rotton and Roger Culver) di
d 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.

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.

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. Kelly, Rotton, and Culver report that Caton examined 45,000,000 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.

A Full Moon Effects Behavior?

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. 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.

Further research may provide further clarification on the lunar effect and what aspects of human behavior and physiology may or may not be affected.
Across the world, there has been an abundance of pseudoscientific theories and superstitions based on the full moon and the effects on human and animal behavior.

One theory claims that the moon has a perceived relationship to fertility is due to the corresponding human menstrual cycle, which averages 28 days. 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. 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.

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

This was based on there being thr
ee car chases within a four-hour period. 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.

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.

In October 2009, British politician David Tredinnick asserted that during a full moon "surgeons will not operate because blood clotting is not effective and the police have to put more people on the street."