Fear of death: worst when you’re
a little religious?
June 29, 2005
Special to World Science
When it comes to fear of death, it seems
being either a religious zealot or an utter nonbeliever go furthest to soothe the anxiety.
Being just a little religious
is the least helpful option.
At least, such are the conclusions suggested by a new survey or 155 older people published in the July issue of the
Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, a scholarly journal.
The study was meant “to investigate the relation between religiousness and fear of death and dying in late adulthood,” wrote the researchers, Paul Wink and colleagues.
As it turned out, people “who were moderately religious feared death more than individuals who scored high or low on religiousness.”
Also, at least for some people, fear of death seems to lessens with age, Wink and colleagues found. People in their mid-70s who had experienced more illness and bereavement, perhaps paradoxically, were found to fear death less than those in their late 60s.
People who believed in an afterlife but didn’t follow religious practices were among those with the greatest death fear, the researchers also found. The findings, they added, suggest “firmness and consistency of beliefs and practices, rather than religiousness per se, buffers against death anxiety in old age.”
This echoed similar findings from a study two decades ago, which, however, focused only on fear of death among terminally ill people.
“Beliefs are a less critical determinant of death fear than is the certainty with which these beliefs are held,” wrote the authors of that study, published in the
International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine in 1983.