© 2024 WSIU Public Broadcasting
WSIU Public Broadcasting
Member-Supported Public Media from Southern Illinois University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Indiana Univ. research finds suicides increase during a full moon

Black silhouettes of people looking through telescope on big red moon in dark twilight on shore.
Framestock - stock.adobe.com
Black silhouettes of people looking through telescope on big red moon in dark twilight on shore.

For hundreds of years, sky gazers have speculated the full moon affects human behavior and mental health, and it turns out our ancestors were onto something.

A study from the Indiana University School of Medicine looked for connections between the weeks of a full moon and suicide rates. Researchers examined data from the Marion County coroner's office
between 2012 and 2016.

Alexander Niculescu, professor of psychiatry in the School of Medicine, said they discovered evidence to support the hypothesis, with a marked suicide increase during full moons.

"There are more deaths by suicide in the week of the full moon compared to the rest of the month," Niculescu reported. "There's also an interesting age effect, where people who are somewhat older -- 55 and above -- the effect is more pronounced. But in all ages there is an effect of the full moon on suicide."

Niculescu noted the research showed the need for medical professionals to closely watch higher-risk patients during the fall months, and during late afternoons. If you or anyone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling or texting 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Niculescu noted biomarkers which predict the greater likelihood of suicide attempts appear to be regulated by the body's own internal clock, the circadian clock. He stressed there is elevated risk for
people who struggle with alcohol or depression.

"The biomarkers that are related to the full moon -- the genes and the mechanism in the body that regulate levels of activity, levels of sleep and wake cycle -- the body has a clock that does that," Niculescu
explained. "And that clock seems to be tied into this increased risk for suicide."

He added they hope to expand the study to determine if factors like the bright light from full moons are similar to the light emitted from screens on electronic devices.

As a WSIU donor, you don’t simply watch or listen to public media programs, you are a partner. By making a gift, you help WSIU produce, purchase, and broadcast programs you care about and enjoy – every day of the year.