University of Oulu

Näyhä S. Lunar cycle in homicides: a population-based time series study in Finland. BMJ Open2019;9:e022759. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-02275

Lunar cycle in homicides : a population-based time series study in Finland

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Author: Näyhä, Simo1
Organizations: 1Faculty of Medicine, Center for Environmental and Respiratory Health Research, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: BMJ, 2019
Publish Date: 2020-04-08


Objective: To test whether homicides in Finland vary according to moon phases.

Design: A time series study.

Setting: Finland.

Participants: 6808 homicides committed in 1961–2014.

Outcome: Daily numbers of homicides.

Method: The daily numbers of homicides were related to eight moon phases and the illuminated percentage of the moon disc using negative binomial regression. To identify lunar patterns, piecewise linear terms of lunar days were used, together with changes from one moon phase to another. Homicides were similarly regressed on quintiles of the illuminated percentage of the moon disc. A periodic term of length 29.53 days was included to detect cyclic patterns. The results were adjusted for sex, age, secular trend, distance from the moon, seasons, weekday, major holidays and temperature.

Results: During the full moon, 15% less homicides were committed than during the new moon (RR 0.85; 95% CI 0.77 to 0.94) and 86% less during the lightest quintile of illumination compared with the darkest quintile (RR 0.14; 95% CI 0.04 to 0.50). Adjustments did not change the results. Piecewise linear regressions showed a significant decline in homicides at the full moon and a rise thereafter. The full moon drop in homicides was directionally similar for seasons, weekdays, sex, age and time periods, and it was particularly pronounced in the early part of period studied (1961–1974). Periodic regression showed a regular cyclic pattern of length 29.53 days (p~0.035).

Conclusions: Contrary to current scientific opinion, an association exists between moon phases and homicides, and contrary to what has been previously assumed, homicides declined during the full moon, especially in earlier decades. However, the causality of the association remains elusive.

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Series: BMJ open
ISSN: 2044-6055
ISSN-E: 2044-6055
ISSN-L: 2044-6055
Volume: 9
Issue: 1
Article number: e022759
DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-022759
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 319 Forensic science and other medical sciences
Funding: Institutional funding.
Copyright information: © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2018. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ. This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See: