Flip-side News: Do Jehovah's Witnesses Have
a Higher Rate of Mental Illness? [Revised]

Do Jehovah's Witnesses have a higher rate of mental illness among their members or those who leave the organization as some claim? There is no published, peer-reviewed information conclusively demonstrating a higher rate of mental disorders or distress among Jehovah's Witnesses. Though there have been articles purporting to be "studies" that claim a high rate of mental disorders among Jehovah's Witnesses, but with no independent support.

In one article I found on the subject*, they gave no conclusive evidence and tried to make the positive statements made by one of only three studies it quotes look like negative statements where the study concluded that there was no reason to restrict Jehovah's Witness parents from raising children and espousing their beliefs to them. In fact, the study cited really wasn't about the prevalence of mental illness among Jehovah's Witnesses at all, but about whether Jehovah's Witnesses were fit parents. The second "study" it cited, rather just an article that claimed a high rate of mental illness among Jehovah's Witnesses without support, was claiming that a parent does not have a right to bring their child up in a limited view of the world. It didn't make any statistical claims regarding mental dysfunction among Jehovah's Witnesses at all. And the third of the three studies cited was so loaded with emotionally-laden words and vile distain for Jehovah's Witnesses in general and their beliefs, showing a clear bias, that no scientist would give it any credence, so its unsupported conclusions could not be trusted in any sense.

The other studies the article mentioned, it summarized for the reader without references or quotations from the studies. These included mental health studies done by Swedish and U.S. militaries, in 1946 and 1949 respectively and another U.S. military Study from 1972 to 1976, these studies acquiring most of their information before drafting was done away with regarding Jehovah's Witnesses as conscientious objectors, claiming a high degree of mental illness; not exactly unbiased, especially when you consider the attitudes of the military against conscientious objectors in those days.

In fact, those three studies from militaries constitute the full extent of mental illness studies, which amount to "anyone that objects to the military is a nut case". The first three studies, those the article quoted, did not provide any information regarding mental disorders among Jehovah's Witnesses at all. The article also seems to suggest that "disillusionment" is a mental disorder. At the end of the article, it concludes with an admission that there just wasn't enough information to claim a higher rate of mental disorder among Jehovah's Witnesses. So the article trying to claim it ends up concluding otherwise.

In The Mental Health of Jehovah's Witnesses, by John Spencer, Mr. Spencer gives a clear indication of bias, giving commentary about the legitimacy of Jehovah's Witness beliefs and stating that because it differs from orthodoxy, that the terms "psychotic" and "paranoid" would best be applied. Due to this bias, an impartial scientist would never give any credence to such consideration and would disregard the entire article on such grounds, and rightfully so.

In the publication, Social Compass, Vol. XXIV, 1977/1, Havor Montegue, in The Pessimistic Sects Influence on the Mental Health of its Members: the Case of Jehovah's Witnesses, claims a low value of life and a high murder rate among Jehovah's Witnesses without providing any supporting evidence to the claim. Despite providing a seemingly unbiased tone, Montegue goes on to use John Spencer's article above as his primary source of information, though itself is not an actual "study". So clearly, Montegue does not give consideration to the bias demonstrated by the articles he researches, nor does he rely impartially upon actual studies.

Ultimately, all the information in these articles all go back to the three biased studies done by the U.S. military concerning conscientious objectors. The conclusions of the majority amounts to 'religiosity is insanity; Jehovah's Witnesses are devoutly religious, therefore they are rife with mental illness.'

Though a claim was made by the above psychiatrist that there was a higher rate of suicidal inclinations, no support was given suggesting a higher rate of suicide among active members, though he tried very hard to imply it while dodging any actual claim to such.

I found one article done about the relationship between Jehovah's Witnesses and Schizophrenia by Michael Rand. In the article, he repeatedly refers to studies that make generalizations about belief systems and religion, as well as about immigrants, but make no direct connections to Jehovah's Witnesses. Instead, his article makes generalizations about Jehovah's Witnesses in an effort to confirm pre-existing biases and conclusions with studies that did not focus on Jehovah's Witnesses at all, despite his claims otherwise. In fact, the very purpose of his article is, "The hypothesis is that the practices and beliefs expressed by the Jehovah's Witnesses can be associated with the Schizophrenic Migration model by Drs. Selten, Cantor-Graae, & Kahn (Selten, Cantor-Graae, & Kahn, 2007) which could result in a higher risk of schizophrenia." That is, his intent is not to prove that Jehovah's Witnesses have a higher rate of schizophrenia, but that "Jehovah's Witnesses can be associated with" the article by Drs. Selten, Cantor-Graae and Kahn.

The article goes on to directly claim a distrust by Jehovah's Witnesses of psychological professions, yet, this is countered by the many articles by Jehovah's Witnesses on depression that very clearly recommend professional help if immediate resolution through application of Bible principles cannot be obtained. The article goes on to speculate about what Jehovah's Witnesses "might" or "may" believe regarding psychological professions, but gives no testimonial or study evidence. Thus, the article has a very clear bias against Jehovah's Witnesses.

The article claims without support, "This is compounded by the fact that Jehovah's Witnesses do not care for their own mental health often because they feel that Armageddon is just around the corner and as such it won't matter." It then states, "The solution to this issue is the same as it would be with any group of people: simply attempt to foster trust and understanding in order to achieve common ground." Yet the article it cites for support has nothing to do with Jehovah's Witnesses. Thus, it is an assumption, as all the studies cited in the article are applied in the same way, though none of the articles ever refer to Jehovah's Witnesses. It simply tries to claim that Jehovah's Witnesses are like immigrants and are therefore affected by the same issues as immigrants. In reality, Michael Rand was, in fact, just a student at Walden University. The article is not actually endorsed by the University, nor is Michael actually a psychiatrist or psychologist.

But if these attempts at studies of mental illness among Jehovah's Witnesses were intent upon finding actual facts, they would abandon biases against doctrines, avoid poisoned wells and stick to impartial data from random sampling and careful research. Since the people performing these studies are incapable of being impartial, scientific and thorough, clearly there is no reason to give any credence to their efforts, no matter how monumental. Twisting a fact to suit one's agenda does not make it a new fact; it just turns it into a lie.
* It was an article apparently written by an apostate. I do not give referrals to such articles.

Additional Information
"The Mental Health of Jehovah's Witnesses" R. Furuli


Unknown said…
The link to the Jehovah's Witnesses United is broken. Also I love your blog it is small in comparison to all the negative and lies spread throughout the internet about Jehovah's Witnesses, but it's lovely to see the truth.
Dismythed said…
Thank you, Terica. I have removed the link. It was a good resource. I'm sorry to see it go. Thank you for the kind words.
Mr. Williams, I do my investigation about psychiatric diseases among JW, and your article was very interesting and helpful for me. I have similar conclusion about this problem.
Dismythed said…
Thank you for the seconding, Sergey.
Dismythed said…
I received a comment by an opposer that claimed that I only cited the abstract regarding the study about schizophrenia among Jehovah's Witnesses, and yes, I did only look, not at the abstract, but at the conclusion of the article. However, upon closer examination, I found that the article wasn't a study at all, but an assumption made about Jehovah's Witnesses based on studies that have nothing to do with Jehovah's Witnesses, so I adjusted the blog post. It is very clearly not about mental illnesses among Jehovah's Witnesses. The article was actually about how Jehovah's Witnesses are all crazy because they can be viewed in the same light as immigrants who are susceptible to mental stress, but it provides NO scientific evidence or studies directed at Jehovah's Witnesses at all.
Anonymous said…
Actually there is a large body of evidence linking schizoid subtypes, depression, anxiety, OCD and other pathologies and Jehovah's Witness and other religions.
[Link Redacted]
[Link Redacted]
[Link Redacted]

Also be aware we are coming to understand that mental disorders are largely genetic. [Link Redacted][Link Redacted]
Basically people with pathologies are drawn to certain lifestyles and many strict religious lifestyles fosters mental disorders: belief in something intangible, stories of people hearing voices and seeing angels; and when cognition is impaired depression and anxiety often follow. So the thought of a being that is always there to comfort you is enticing. Unfortunately it can also foster paranoia, guilt, fear and anger.

Dismythed said…
Actually, you just proved my very point. There is no greater amount of psychological disorders among Jehovah's Witnesses than any other religion. But besides this, I get the sense that you didn't actually read my blog post through. The very links you cited are the very so-called "studies" I referred to by name that provided no proof of anything except the bias of the authors. But I read the actual studies, not the abstracts that you cited. They themselves either relied entirely upon the actual outdated military studies I was referring to in the blog post or relied entirely upon other non-studies that themselves relied entirely upon the three military studies. There have been NO actual studies on mental disorders among Jehovah's Witnesses since those military studies that all came to the conclusion that Jehovah's Witnesses are mentally ill because anyone refusing military service must be mentally ill.

A psychologist should understand the need to get the full story before drawing conclusions. Would a good judge rely upon law abstracts to judge by law? Should not one ask why a study does not actually provide its own statistical proof? I don't think a psychologist would be very trustworthy if they relied solely upon the abstracts of "studies" or upon "studies" that rely solely upon other studies that themselves rely solely upon other outdated studies.

Check your sources, and if this is the way you approach all of your psychological learning, I suggest you go back and read old studies you think you learned from (Not just the abstracts,) and ask if it is actually a study or simply a review of someone else's study. Follow the rabbit holes until you find the actual studies with actual statistics and ask, "Is the information biased?" "What is the real reason this study was done?"

"Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine." —1 Thessalonians 5:21
Unknown said…
the really insane religious people are those who kill members of their own religion and then say they are sane, when Jehovah's witnesses don't kill their members like those in other crazy religions. The truth always comes back to haunt them.
Anonymous said…
When we witness we meet people who sometimes are 'gone' so to speak. We offer love and help. They come to our meetings and feel protected. Their relatives, knowing how sick they are, sometimes view us as predators. We are the opposite. What advantage would it be for us to bring these people in other that our obedience to the law of love. So...the result could be, "Did you hear?....Crazy Joe has become one of those Jehovah people." There may be a "Crazy Joes" in some of our thousands of congregations, but under pressure from opposers, we will never turn our backs on them.
amanda lee said…
If someone conducts a study or collects research that is not affiliated with your organization you discredit the study all together and say it is unscientific or that they do not have the facts right.
However, If someone is knowledgable about the organization and collects information or refers to a study you assume they are Bias and if anyone gives references or post links to information different from what you're understanding is you remove it from your blog.
If anyone wants to know if this organization has any ties to mental disorders including scitzophrina and psychosis just Wikipedia Beth-Sarim and you will have no doubt. It almost sounds like the founders of this organization were envolved in hallucinogenic drug use and had fell right threw the looking glass.
Dismythed said…
...Says a person who presents no such damning evidence. You mention "schizophrenia", "psychosis" and "hallucinogenic drug use" with Rutherford's Beth-Sarim, and yet you say to "Wikipedia it". Okay, on Wikipedia, there's no such mention of hallucinogens, schizophrenia or psychosis in relation to Beth-Sarim. I think the one hallucinating may be you.
Unknown said…
As a non-JW and a pastor in a Christian congregation I can say that many denominations have an increasing number of people with some level of mental illness. Even if it is true that there are a many people within the JW faith, it assuredly does not mean that the JW faith is responsible. People who are searching for acceptance from others will always find churches attractive. My personal observation is that mental illness is on the increase as the pace and expectations of this final era takes its toll. So, of course some of these individuals will find there way into Kingdom Halls. God bless you as you support these precious individuals. Great web site!
Dismythed said…
Thank you for your kind words and for exercising discernment. No doubt, your unprejudiced mind pleases God. Peace be with you.
Robert said…
The conclusions made by those mentioned in this post is not surprising. In Mark 3:21, it tells of how Jesus was thought to be mentally unstable because of how he become a preacher and healer, and the commotion that resulted.

My point is that since Witnesses are something different from what the world has been familiar with, they assume the worse and make up silly theories about us because they don't know about it. In short, its founded on ignorance and prejudice.

Its like when you're moving into a new neighborhood from the one you've spend your entire childhood in and are comfortable with. We criticize and fear the new neighborhood because its unknown and unfamiliar, not because we have evidence its bad.

So as it goes with Witnesses and this "mental illness" stuff.