Thursday 5 November 2020

Lunacy in a tertiary ED: A study of the association between moon cycles and violence

Of course, we have all heard the full moon makes people barking mad and creates chaos in the ED.

“It must be a full moon!”

This study out of Melbourne looked at ED patient records over 3 years and compared the rate of “occupational violence and aggression” with the lunar cycle divided into quarters; new moon, first quarter, full moon and third quarter. Then they performed logistic regression to determine the association between the cycle and rates of violence.

In the end, they had 184,059 patients who presented to the ED over three years. It turns out that violence and aggression was NOT associated with a full moon but it was statistically associated with the first quarter (adjusted OR 1.38; P<0.01) and the third quarter (adjusted OR 1.29, P=0.03).

Well, there you have it…

In the discussion, the authors provide physiologic justification for the observed association based on some brilliant quotes from “prominent astrologers Dana Gerhardt and Dane Rudhyar.”

But the rational side of us knows this is completely nuts… just as we know that the transit of Venus doesn’t cause urinary retention and a meteor shower doesn’t cure syphilis.

This article appeared in Emergency Medicine Australasia. It did not appear in a predatory journal or the Christmas edition of BMJ. It was delivered in “dead pan” without even a hint of a wink at the end.

But the authors knew exactly what they were doing. And it provides us with a couple of valuable lessons.

Statistics can get things wrong.

I’m sure if the authors looked at the association of astrological birth signs (i.e. ISIS-2) with violence they would have found some statistically significant results; Capricorn and Leo were hot heads, but Gemini calm as a cucumber.

We need to be reasonably skeptical of the medical literature. Much of what gets published turns out to be false

Thanks to these authors for getting it right… wink… wink…



Teung T, O’Reilly G, Mitra B, Olaussen A. Lunacy in a tertiary emergency department: A 3 year cohort study of the association between moon cycles and occupational violence and aggression. Emerg Med Aus.




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