Jehovah's Witnesses and Mental Health

mental health

by Matt Slick

Please understand that this article is not meant as a put-down of the Jehovah's Witnesses. I am simply displaying research information which raises serious questions about the Watchtower Organization.

It has always been a belief of mine that cult groups put an excessive burden of legalism upon their adherents--this is because they do not have a proper understanding of grace due to their lack of understanding of who God is and what He has done for us. Often these aberrant groups require substantial commitments of time and energy from their membership in order to maintain a good standing in the group. Since cults are typically short on grace and long on law (mixed with group obligations, guilt-inducing teachings, and isolationism), I have always assumed that this unnecessary difficulty would lead to emotional and mental problems.

A few years ago, I heard of an article in a mental health journal that documented the population percentages of Jehovah's Witnesses in mental wards. It took some effort, but I found it. Following are excerpts from that article. Judge for yourself if the Jehovah's Witness organization contributed to the demise of some of its members.

(The following quotes are taken from the British Journal of Psychiatry: the Journal of Mental Science. Published by authority of The Royal College of Psychiatrists, Vol. 126, Ashford, Kent, Headley Brothers LTD, 1975. The author is John Spencer.)

"During the period of 36 months from January 1971 to December 1973 there were 7,546 inpatient admissions to the West Australian Mental Health Service Psychiatric Hospitals. Of these 50 were reported to be active members of the Jehovah's Witnesses movement" (p. 557).

"Of the 50 admitted 22 were diagnosed as schizophrenic, 17 as paranoid schizophrenic, 10 as neurotic and one as alcoholic" (p. 557-58).

  Total admissions Annual rate per 1,000 population Jehovah's Witnesses admissions Annual rate per 1,000 population
All diagnoses 7,546 2.54 50 4.17
Schizophrenia (295) 1,826 .61 22 1.83
Paranoid schizophrenia (195.3) 1,154 .38 17 1.4
Neurosis (300) 1,182 .39 10 .76

"From the figures gathered in the Table it is clear that members of the Jehovah's Witnesses movement are over-represented in admissions to the Mental Health Services of this State. Furthermore, it is clear from the Table that the incidence of schizophrenia amongst them is about three times as high as for the rest of the general population, while the figure for paranoid schizophrenia is nearly four times that of the general population" (p. 558).

"The study does not shed light on the question of symptom or defense mechanism, but suggests that either the Jehovah's Witnesses sect tends to attract an excess of pre-psychotic individuals who may then break down, or else being a Jehovah's Witness is itself a stress which may precipitate a psychosis" (p. 558).








About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.