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Moon 'innocent' of role in driving healthcare activity, say researchers

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Lunar cycles do not influence the timing of births or hospital admissions, despite the presence of a full moon being a common refrain when things appear more hectic than usual, say US researchers.

While at risk of being confused with an April fool, researchers looked at why intelligent and otherwise reasonable clinicians blamed the moon when things got “crazy” in accident and emergency rooms or birth wards.

“Some nurses ascribe the apparent chaos to the moon, but dozens of studies show that the belief is unfounded,” said Jean-Luc Margot, a professor of planetary astronomy at the University of California in Los Angeles.

The absence of a lunar influence has been demonstrated in the areas of hospital admissions, surgery outcomes, cancer survival, menstruation, births, birth complications, and depression, said Professor Margot in the journal Nursing Research.

“Some nurses ascribe the apparent chaos to the moon”

Jean-Luc Margot

He acknowledged that a study published in a nursing journal in 2004 had suggested that the full moon influenced the number of admissions to a medical unit in Barcelona. But he claimed there were multiple flaws in the research and re-analysis showed admission frequency was unrelated to the lunar cycle.

“The moon is innocent,” Professor Margot said, adding that it was caused by people’s tendency to interpret information in a way that confirmed their beliefs and ignored data that contradicted them.

Professor cited the recent measles outbreak in the US as an example of where questionable public beliefs about the safety of vaccination had overcome the evidence base – in a similar way to MMR in the UK during the 1990s.

“Vaccine-preventable diseases are killing people because of beliefs that are out of step with scientific facts,” said Professor Margot.

He argued that willingness to engage in evidence-based reasoning and admit that one’s beliefs may be incorrect would produce a more accurate view of the world.

“Perhaps we can start by correcting our delusions about the moon, and work from there,” he said.

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