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Near Death Experiences

How Common Is A Near Death Experience ?

Near Death Experiences Series, Article 6 (Reviewed by the Editorial Board)

Although we have seen that near death experience (s) have been been recorded throughout history and
across numerous cultures, one question remains unanswered : how frequently does a near experience
occur in the population now days? Do near death experience (s) concern only an extremely small percentage of the population or do they occur somewhat more frequently?

Looking through the literature, it is obvious that in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s research had predominantly centered on characterizing the different features of a near death experience. However, in addition to wanting to find out more about the nature of the experience itself, researchers also investigated its occurrence (prevalence). Different studies report varying prevalence(s) in the general population:

i) A telephone survey of a representative sample of the Australian population, carried out by Perera et al. in 2005 concluded that 8.9% of the population had experienced a near death experience. (1)

ii) A German study carried out by Knoblauch in 2001 reports that 4% of the sample population had experienced an NDE. (2)

iii) According to the Gallup and Proctor survey in 1980-1981, of a representative sample of the American population, data showed that 15% had a near death experience.

iv) In a more clinical setting, van Lommel et al. (2001) (3), a cardiologist from Netherlands, studied a group of patients who had suffered cardiac arrests and who were successfully revived. They found that 62 patients (18%) had a near death experience, of whom 41 (12%) described a core experience.

v) 10% were reported by Greyson (2003) (4)

vi) 6% were reported by Parnia et al. (2001) (5)


Although the prevalence of the near death experience phenomenon shows significant variance (4%-19%), even if one takes the lower part of the range (i.e. 4%), the data indicate that an astonishingly high proportion of the population experience a near death experience and that this phenomenon is most probably quite common, certainly far more common than most had originally thought.

(1) Knoblauch, H., Schmied, I. and Schnettler, B. (2001). "Different kinds of Near-Death Experience: a report on a survey of near-death experiences in Germany",Journal of Near-Death Studies, 20, 15-29

(2) Gallup, G., and Proctor, W. (1982). Adventures in immortality: a look beyond the threshold of death. New York, McGraw Hill, pp. 198-200. "Have you, yourself, ever been on the verge of death or had a "close call" which involved any unusual experience at that time?" Nationally 15% responded "yes".

(3) Van Lommel P et al. Near-death experience in survivors of cardiac arrest: a prospective study in the Netherlands. Lancet. 2001 Dec 15;358(9298):2039-45. Erratum in: Lancet 2002 Apr 6;359(9313):1254. PubMed PMID: 11755611.

(4) Greyson B. Incidence and correlates of near-death experiences in a cardiac care unit. General Hospital Psychiatry. 2003. 71:358-73.

(5) Parnia S. A quantitative and qualitative study of the incidence, features and aetiology of near death experiences in cardiac arrest survivors. Resuscitation 52:5-11.

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