Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 120–125

Beliefs in karma and reincarnation among survivors of violent trauma

A community survey
  • Jonathan R. T Davidson
  • Kathryn M. Connor
  • Li-Ching Lee

DOI: 10.1007/s00127-005-0857-6

Cite this article as:
Davidson, J.R.T., Connor, K.M. & Lee, L. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol (2005) 40: 120. doi:10.1007/s00127-005-0857-6



This survey was designed to examine beliefs in karma and reincarnation among survivors of violent trauma in the general US population.


Two community surveys were conducted in 2001. From a sample of 1,969 respondents, two groups were created based on level of agreement with karmic belief. This sample forms the basis of this report. Information was obtained as to mental and physical health, resilience, exposure to violent trauma, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity, and the cohorts were compared on these variables.


Five percent of the sample admitted strong agreement to a belief in karma and reincarnation (n=99), while 77% strongly disagreed with these beliefs (n=1,511). Characteristics associated with agreement included being non-white, unmarried, and in poor physical and mental health. Moreover, agreement was associated with more extensive traumatization, including abuse, rape, and loss of a family member through violent death, as well as more severe posttraumatic stress symptoms.


Few people subscribe strongly to a belief in karma and reincarnation in the US population, but personal experience of trauma may be associated with greater acceptance, as well as certain demographic and health-associated variables. The importance of holding such beliefs, which may represent an important way of coping following violent trauma, deserves further study.

Key words


Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan R. T Davidson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kathryn M. Connor
    • 1
  • Li-Ching Lee
    • 3
  1. 1.Dept. of Psychiatry & Behavioral SciencesDuke University Medical CenterDurham (NC)USA
  2. 2.Durham (NC)USA
  3. 3.Dept. of EpidemiologyJohns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimore (MD)USA