Does Thinking About Dying Increase Your Risk Of Death?

The human mind and body are intricately connected. The relationship between the two is so profound that it can significantly impact our well-being. Whether thinking about death increases the risk of death delves deep into this complex relationship. The age-old saying "mind over matter" suggests that our thoughts have the power to shape our physical reality, and scientific research supports this notion.

Psychoneuroimmunology studies how emotions, thoughts, and beliefs affect the immune and nervous systems (via Reference Module in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Psychology 2017). A 2017 study in Physiological Reviews shows that the brain communicates directly with the immune system, releasing chemicals and hormones that can profoundly impact how your body functions. Stress hormones like cortisol, released when we experience psychological stress, can lead to health problems like cardiovascular issues and weakened immune responses (per the Mayo Clinic).

The placebo and nocebo effects illustrate this even further. Believing that a treatment will work can trigger remarkable healing responses, while negative expectations can have detrimental consequences. 

Ultimately, it's clear that our thoughts and physical well-being are intricately connected. By exploring the science behind psychosomatic illnesses and how the fear of death influences health, we can better understand how our thoughts shape our bodies' realities.

Psychosomatic illnesses and their impact

Psychosomatic illnesses are physical conditions stemming from psychological factors like stress, anxiety, or emotional distress. Studies have consistently shown how psychological distress can trigger or worsen various physical health issues (per Healthline). For instance, 2014 research published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology highlighted that patients with IBS often exhibit high levels of anxiety and stress, which can worsen their symptoms. 

Additionally, psychosomatic illnesses can affect our hearts. According to 2021 research published in Circulation, negative psychological factors — such as stress, anxiety, and depression — can increase our risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD). In contrast, positive psychological factors — such as optimism, resilience, and social support — can reduce our risk of developing the disease. 

Similarly, psychological factors also play a significant role in chronic pain conditions. For example, a 2017 report in Neural Plasticity demonstrated a link between depression and chronic pain. 

These examples provide compelling evidence of the profound connection between the mind and body.

The positive aspects of mortality awareness

The idea of mortality is a complicated issue that encourages us to explore the depths of our human experience. Realizing that your time on this planet is limited can bring about many emotions, such as fear, anxiety, and despair. However, this realization can also provide you with an opportunity for personal growth and positive change. It urges you to reflect on your life, evaluate your priorities, and cherish every moment. 

Embracing life's impermanence can be a powerful catalyst for personal growth as well as developing and changing habits. It can help motivate you to live a more authentic, meaningful, and purposeful life. By accepting that life is fleeting, you can be inspired to wake up each day with a sense of purpose and gratitude for the world around you. By facing your fears with resilience and courage, you'll learn to appreciate life's uncertainties and make the most of the time you have. 

What to do if thinking about dying causes anxiety

While it's important to recognize that death is a natural part of life, it's also vital to avoid fixating on it and letting it cause undue stress or anxiety. The good news is that there are plenty of constructive steps we can take to address our concerns and maintain a positive outlook on life. A study published in 2022 in Current Psychology has shown that people who find meaning in their lives and can effectively manage stress are less likely to experience death anxiety. This means growing and cultivating resilience in the face of existential fears is possible. 

If you worry about death frequently or feel like these fears are starting to impact your daily life, seeking mental health support is a great way to be proactive and get the help you need. Mental health therapists and psychologists can offer guidance, coping strategies, and emotional support to help you navigate your fears and feel more resilient. By embracing the challenges of mortality and seeking support when needed, you can lead a more balanced, fulfilling life and face life's uncertainties with greater confidence.