Lunacy not linked to dark side of the moon

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The Independent Online
The full moon looks finally to have been give a clean bill of health as a cause of mental illness. Although history and literature are peppered with cases of mentally unbalanced acts linked to specific parts of the lunar cycle - hence the word lunatic - new research may have finally disproved the theory.

Despite scepticism about the effects of the moon, there is still a belief that it can affect moods, with reports that some medical consultation rates for anxiety and depression wax and wane at different parts of the cycle.

To test the lunar-effect theory, a team of researchers set out to trace the activities of more than 700 anxious and depressed patients over an 18-year period to see if their psychological illness was affected by the moon. Their conclusion is that it probably wasn't. But the team does not discount the lunar effect altogether and says some individuals may have mood swings on certain days of the lunar cycle.

The research was based on the number of times the patients arranged an appointment to see their GP during the different phases of 221 lunar cycles over the 18 years.

There was little difference, but the report of the research says: "It might well be that the moon has only a moderate and short-term impact, not leading to consultations."

The report, in the current issue of the International Journal of Social Psychiatry, also suggests the possibility that individuals may have been so incapacitated by the effects of the moon that they were unable to make an appointment. It suggests further research, and adds: "An influence of the moon on psychological well-being and behaviour may have important economic and public health implications due to health service use and changes in job performance, including absenteeism, or other social activities."

One of the researchers, Professor Greg Wilkinson, of the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, said yesterday: "Despite scepticism, the idea of the moon having an affect on mental health is still widely believed, even by some doctors.

"We don't dismiss the idea of an effect, and it is possible, for instance, that patients suffering with the effects might not have been capable of making an appointment."

Theories about how the moon might have an effect on mood usually rely on the changing gravitational pull of the moon.