The Experience of Almost Dying Is Surprisingly Calm

People who have had near-death experiences report that they are quite peaceful.

Science Photo Library/Corbis

You could be forgiven for thinking that a near-death experience would be traumatic, given the whole "nearness to death" thing. But that doesn't appear to be the case. A study of 190 people who have had these experiences revealed them to be quite calm;  90 percent of the participants reported feeling, above all, a sense of peacefulness. 

These experiences are subjective, sure, but in the study they were measured using a quantitative method called the Greyson scale. In these surveys, people reported "out-of-body-experiences, seeing a bright light, alerted time perception," the researchers wrote. However, "precognitive visions (e.g., seeing the future) and the experience of life review"—often the way the phenomenon is described in movies and the like—"were among the least frequently reported core features." And only two people said that felt negative emotions during the event.

"It turns out to be not so bad to have a dying experience," Steven Laureys, a neuroscientist at the University of Liège in Belgium, told New Scientist.

Interestingly, the term "near-death experience" (NDE) was first coined in the 1800s when a Swiss geologist collected stories from his fellow climbers and himself after making a fall in the Alps. It was popularized in 1975 by Raymond Moody his his best-seller Life After Life. He described an NDE as “any conscious perceptual experience occurring in individuals pronounced clinically dead or who came very close to physical death.”

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

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