The Psychological Correlates of Decreased Death Anxiety After a Near-Death Experience: The Role of Self-Esteem, Mindfulness, and Death Representations

Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Ahead of Print. Near-death experiences (NDE) are intense events that can have profound psychological consequences. Although decreased fear of death after an NDE is a well-documented phenomenon, it is unclear what psychological factors are associated with reduced death anxiety. In this study, grounded in terror management theory, we compared 102 people who had an NDE with 104 individuals who did not. Participants completed measures of death anxiety, self-esteem, mindfulness, and death representation. Results indicated that people who had an NDE had lower fear of death, higher self-esteem, greater mindfulness, and viewed death more as a transition rather than as absolute annihilation. Subsequent analyses found that NDE had a direct effect on death anxiety, and that the effect of NDE on death anxiety was also mediated by indirect effects on self-esteem and death representation. Implications of these findings are considered, limitations of the present study are acknowledged, and suggestions for future theory and research are proffered.