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. https://doi.org/10.1111/1742-6723.13601
Dr Brian Doyle is an emergency physician originally from the United States but now very much calls Tasmania his home. Unfortunately, it will now be a bit more difficult to deport him from the country as he passed his Australian citizenship test a few years ago. (He was able to answer that Phar Lap won the Melbourne rather than the Davis Cup). His main interests are mostly the clinical aspects of emergency medicine but also in education, ultrasound and critical appraisal of the literature. He spends much of his time annoying people to help out with conferences.