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Ask the Mental Health Expert Archives 2001-2004

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Astrology

Q. Since the study of Astrology was found many decades ago, have there been any studies about criminals and birth charts? For example, Scorpios are often associated with death, while Taurus have been documented as the most sexual, yet possessive. What are your thoughts?

A. Astrology is actually almost 4000 years old, and originated in Babylonia and Persia. Frankly, I am very skeptical that astrological signs do much besides generate money for astrologers. However, there are some intriguing data bearing indirectly on your question.

Dr. E. Salib of Liverpool University recently carried out a study to see whether astrological birth signs are associated with suicide (Med Sci Law. 2003 Apr;43(2):111-4). Data were collected from the Public Health Department in North Cheshire, England, representing all the Cheshire Coroner's verdicts of suicide, and open verdicts, in all deceased aged 60 and above between 1989 and 2000.

The observed occurrence of deaths due to natural causes, and suicide, in relation to birth signs did not differ significantly from what would be expected by chance. However, the distribution of suicide by hanging turned out to be significantly higher in those with a birth sign of Virgo, and lowest in those born under Sagittarius and Scorpio. In effect, the distribution of violent and non-violent suicides in relation to star signs showed higher occurences of violent death in persons born in the summer months.

An earlier study (RJ Pellegrini, J Psychol. 1975 Mar;89(2d Half):261-5) suggested that sign of birth influenced traits of masculinity or femininity. My own view is that--if these data can be trusted at all--there is some other variable involved, besides astrological sign. For example, there are data pointing to a higher incidence of winter births among individuals with schizophrenia (Mortensen et al, 1999). This could result from the effects of viral illnesses that are more prevalent in the winter months, perhaps transmitted from the mother to the fetus.

Of course, we also know that available sunlight has a seasonal pattern, and that this may affect the brain by acting on the pineal gland. So--if there are any effects on personality related to time of birth, my guess is that they have more to do with such subtle background effects than with Scorpio or Taurus.

October 2003

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