Hallucinations: Much More Prevalent Than Previously Thought

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The Data

Researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland wanted to determine how prevalent hallucinations were in people who didn’t have any form of mental illness. The researchers reviewed data from some 5,700 people living in the United Kingdom, and discovered that a little over 4 percent of them had experienced some form of hallucination within the past year.

The results of this study also lend credence to a much larger study conducted in 2015, which analyzed over 30,000 adults from 19 different countries. Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Queensland University found that around 5 percent of the people they surveyed reported hearing voices or having some other type of hallucination. Interestingly, hallucinations were more common in people from wealthier countries than in those living in the developing world.

What was also significant was that not all of these people experienced hallucinations regularly. Approximately one third of those surveyed experienced fewer than five hallucinations over the course of their entire lives.

While it’s certainly not a common occurrence, it does cast the phenomenon of auditory, visual, and other forms of hallucination in a new light. More research needs to be done before drawing any major conclusions. In particular, scientists want to find out why some people (again, many more than previously thought) experience a few hallucinations and remain otherwise normal and healthy, and why a much smaller number of people go on to develop consistent hallucinations.

 

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Science will reveal the facts in time. This isn’t anything you should be losing sleep over, but for now we should all be aware that the phenomenon of hallucination, once thought to be solely associated with drug use, mental illness and extreme situations like sleep deprivation, can occur even in healthy people living normal lives.

References:

www.memory.ucsf.edu

www.serendip.brynmawr.edu

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