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Near death experiences impact study confounds expectations

NewsNear death experiences impact study confounds expectations

New research into near death experiences (NDEs) has confounded expectations.

It’s a widely held belief that NDEs often transform a person’s outlook on life. However, contrary to popular belief, those who narrowly avoid death remain exactly the same a year later, according to new research.

In a groundbreaking study published in the journal Critical Care, a team of scientists monitored 19 people who had experienced an NDE in the intensive care unit (ICU). And the study found that the NDE survivors were no different to other patients 12 months later.

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The study – one of the first of its kind – began by analyzing 126 patients who had spent more than a week in the ICU at the University of Liege in Belgium, where they were treated for a variety of illnesses including respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, kidney, neurological, and metabolic problems. Most were admitted for surgical reasons.

Of those patients, just 15 per cent – or 19 people – had an NDE. The researchers interviewed them three to seven days after they left hospital and asked about any dissociative experiences they had, such as forgetting who they were or feeling disconnected from themselves, as well as spiritual, religious, and personal beliefs.

At the time of the initial interviews, those who had experienced an NDE were found to have a greater propensity for dissociative symptoms such as feeling little to no pain and being uncertain about their identity, as well as increased spiritual and personal well-being.

A year later, however, there was no significant difference in their quality of life, despite NDEs being typically reported as transformative and potentially associated with negative emotions.

Dr Bruce Greyson, who created the NDE scale used in the study, has found that 10 to 20 per cent of people who have had cardiac arrest experience an NDE – equivalent to five per cent of the overall population. He defines NDEs as “intensely vivid and often life-transforming experiences, often occurring under extreme physiological conditions such as life-threatening trauma, cardiac arrest, or deep anaesthesia.”

The results of the Critical Care study differ from those of previous research, including a 2022 study by Greyson that found significant differences in quality of life even 20 years after the initial events.  The Critical Care researchers said further research is needed to confirm their findings.

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