Fact Check: Do All Healthy People Have Mystical Experiences?
I saw this on Twitter the other day…
…and realized I had the data to fact-check it. On the 2020 SSC Survey, I asked many questions about mental health, plus this one:
For this analysis I defined an artificial category “very mentally healthy”. Someone qualified as very mentally healthy if they said they had no personal or family history of depression, anxiety, or autism, rated their average mood and life satisfaction as 7/10 or higher, and rated their childhood at least 7/10 on a scale from very bad to very good. Of about 8000 respondents, only about 1000 qualified as “very mentally healthy”.
Of total respondents, 21% reported having a spiritual experience, plus an additional 18% giving the “unclear” answer.
Of the very mentally healthy, only 17% reported having a spiritual experience, plus 14% giving the “unclear” answer.
In a chi-square test, the difference was significant at p < 0.001.
So this tweet is false, unless you’re using some kind of hokey ad hoc definition of “the mind is healthy”. I’m glad; lots of people have spiritual experiences at their worst moments, and find them helpful. Healthy people already have enough to brag about; it would be annoying if they got to monopolize mystical experiences too!
As always, you can try to replicate my work using the publicly available SSC Survey Results. If you get slightly different answers than I did, it’s because I’m using the full dataset which includes a few people who didn’t want their answers publicly released. If you get very different answers than I did, it’s because I made a mistake.