Through centuries, the full moon has been associated with an array of strange phenomena, from witchcraft and werewolves to spikes in crime, traffic accidents and hospital admission rates.
Does the full moon really correlate to a rise in emergency room visits? Anecdotal evidence may say yes, but so far research hasn’t documented a strong link.
A 2011 study published in the World Journal of Surgery found that more than 40% of medical staff believe that lunar phases can affect human behavior, even though most studies find no direct correlation between the full moon and hospital admission rates.
A real occurrence?
In the view of many ER physicians, however, including AOA President John W. Becher, DO, “full moon madness” is a real phenomenon. Dr. Becher, who has practiced emergency medicine for nearly 40 years, recalled his experiences as chairman of emergency services at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he is currently director of osteopathic medical education.
Adjacent to the center’s emergency department is an 11-bed psychiatric emergency center. “You could almost tell the phase of the moon by how crowded that area of the ED was,” says Dr. Becher. “Anytime the moon was full, that area was overflowing.”
Paul J. Allegretti, DO, agrees that the emergency department seems busier when the moon is full. He’s the program director for the emergency medicine residency at Midwestern University/Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine (MWU/CCOM) in Downers Grove, Illinois. “I think people are sicker and it seems like more unusual things happen when the moon is full, though I don’t think I could ever prove it,” he says.
‘That’s just the nature of the ER’
Eric Moon, DO, an emergency room physician at St. Bernard Hospital in Chicago, has worked exclusively nights since he began practicing 12 years ago.
“For as long as I’ve worked in the emergency department, whenever there’s a full moon, invariably someone will make a comment about how it’s going to be a rough night,” he says. But Dr. Moon says chalking up eventful night shifts to the full moon is an incorrect assumption of cause and effect. “We frequently have crazy nights in the emergency room when the moon is full because that’s just the nature of the ER, no matter what phase the moon is in,” he explains.
What’s your take?
Is “full moon madness” a real phenomenon or a myth? Share your thoughts in the comments.