The fate in our stars

New research shows the month during which you were born appears to influence your adult temperament. Of course, if you pay attention to life and the world, you have abundant opportunity to observe how people often seem to fit certain patterns, depending upon their “birth signs.”

The study of astrology may sound like pop culture folly, but it actually dates back thousands of years. In ancient times in the East and the West, philosophers and scientists found much meaning in exploring and applying the influences of the earth, heavens and seasons on human temperament, constitution, and health.

In China and India, they take great interest in “casting,” based upon date/time of birth. In the West, they did the same kind of thing until modern times.

In geophysical and chrono-biological terms, your birth date relates to many significant factors. Including date of conception, the position of the earth relative to the sun, the seasons spent in the womb, the first months after birth, availability of nutrients, and solar radiation. Your birth date also relates to maternal activity and exposures during pregnancy.

Of course, despite worldwide observations over the centuries, as well as the common sense experiences apparent to anyone today, the self-appointed keepers of science deride all such correlations as “superstition.”

So, heaven forbid (once again, pardon the expression), we pay any serious attention to “astrology.” Despite the fact that Presidents have brought about the ends of wars and oppression by paying attention to this “superstition.”

But now, a group of “hard” scientists in Hungary have dipped their toes in the waters of what may be obvious to many others. They studied 366 college students and found that participants born during the summer months (Cancer, Leo, Virgo) were more likely to have an irritable, “cyclothymic” temperament compared to those born during other seasons. “Choleric” is another term for this irritable temperament. And they used it commonly from the time of Aristotle in ancient Greece until the 1800s in the West. Over the ages, they associated this temperament with what is recognized today as manic depression, or bipolar disorder.

On the other hand, researchers found that students born during winter months (Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces) were less likely to have the cyclothymic temperament. And less likely to suffer from manic depression.

However, the winter-born students were more likely to have a unipolar depressive temperament than were those born during autumn months (Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius). Traditionally, they called this depressive temperament “phlegmatic.” And it has equivalents in Ayurvedic and Chinese typologies.

The researchers for the new study said in the “prescientific era,” physicians considered birth season an important element in determining personality and illness. And they acknowledged this tradition lives on in several contemporary concepts.

Centuries ago, studies indeed turned up a link between season of birth and mental disorders we now recognize as unipolar depression, bipolar depression (manic-depression), and schizophrenia. However, this knowledge hid in plain sight for hundreds of years. And “legitimate” scientific studies in the modern era failed to make the connection.

Newer evidence confirms that birth season has long-lasting effects through adulthood. For example, biochemical studies show that birth month influences neurotransmitters, such as monoamine brain biochemicals like dopamine and serotonin.

Researchers also observe that hospitalizations for mental illnesses spike during certain months of the year. Certain months also see higher statistics for the onset of mental illness. Of course, the seasons affect mood and behavior. So it would make sense that birth seasons ultimately influence risk of developing mental disorders.

Modern psychiatry has even come to accept the view that having a certain temperament may predispose you to manifesting minor and major mental disorders.

We now generally recognize that mental health isn’t black or white, “all or none.” More realistically, it exists on a spectrum, shading from “normal” to “abnormal” thoughts and behaviors. In this regard, what we call “mental illnesses” may be seen as extreme manifestations of variations recognized as inherent among all human temperaments and personalities. This view is actually a lot simpler and uses a lot more common sense than some psychiatric researchers make it sound.

My colleague, Mike Jawer, and I developed a short quiz that shows your “personality” or “temperament” type. To develop this quiz, we used psychometric tools that show temperamental characteristics exist along a spectrum. Knowing your personality type can help you choose the natural therapies to which you will respond best.

In many ways, Shakespeare anticipated the sensibilities of the modern world. And in his play Julius Caesar, he said (in the words of Cassius): “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves …”

But it seems, even in our modern techno-world, that the stars are not entirely without influence after all.


  1. “Birth season affects your mood in later life,” European College of Neuropsychopharmacology ( 10/19/2014