INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) – Deaths by suicide increase significantly in Indiana around the time of a full moon, psychiatrists at Indiana University have found.
The theory has been around for ages that a full moon is directly related to behavioral changes. A team at IU’s School of Medicine studied data from the Marion County Coroner’s Office and found deaths by suicide, as recorded by the county coroner, increased significantly during the week of a full moon between 2012 and 2016.
The team of psychiatrists found common data showing 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and the month of September to be peak times for suicides. The data showed even more of an increase in people over the age of 55, the IU team said.
“From a clinical perspective and a public health perspective, we found some important take-home messages in this study,” said Alexander Niculescu, who led the team at IU in this study. “High-risk patients should possibly be followed more closely the week of the full moon, during late afternoons and perhaps the month of September.”
The conclusion has to do with our internal clocks– the circadian rhythm. Niculescu explained the process as the natural 24-hour cycle our bodies follow to regulate when we are asleep and when we are awake.
Ambient light plays a major role on the body’s circadian rhythm, the team said, so moonlight could be impacting people at a time when it should be darker, leading to the increase in suicides in the time frame of a full moon.
“Our work shows the full moon, fall season and late afternoon are temporal windows of increased risk for suicide, particularly in individuals who suffer from depression or alcohol use disorders,” Niculescu said.
Niculescu said he hopes to continues studying suicide rates, specifically how exposure to screens at night could contribute to increases, especially in younger people.
“Some people have a full moon in their hand every night,” Niculescu said. “It’s an area we absolutely need to study further.”