Meeting someone who isn’t anxious about their inevitable end is rare because a fear of dying is a natural part of being human, but technology could double as a new treatment to reduce a person’s fear of the end.

A study from researchers at Barcelona University found that certain virtual reality (VR) experiences can, in fact, reduce a fear of dying.

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Researchers were inspired by prior research showing that people who have near-death experiences, which may include an out-of-body feeling, have fewer fears about their time to go. The team worked with 32 female volunteers who agreed to put on the VR headsets, and found that exposing the volunteers to similar out-of-body experiences via VR did actually help, Medical XPress reported.

First, the research team used immersive techniques with participants by manipulating their VR sets. Researchers induced the feeling of virtual balls falling around them and made it feel more real by giving a slight vibration on the body part this “ball” touched.

After a few more immersive activities, researchers switched some of the women's perspectives from first-person to third-person, according to Medical Xpress. This caused an out-of-body experience as the VR camera moved higher toward the ceiling, and participants felt themselves being left behind.

Certain VR experiences can actually change your mind. Photo courtesy of Getty Images/David Ramos

Results showed that women who went through this induced “out-of-body experience” reported a drastically lower fear of dying when compared to those who didn’t experience the same portion of the experiment.

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Previous research has also found that VR has the potential to help those with depression become less critical of themselves, as well as reduce their overall symptoms of depression, Medical Daily previously reported.

Source: Bourdin P, Barberia I, Oliva R, Slater M. A Virtual Out-of-Body Experience Reduces Fear of Death. PLOS ONE. 2017.

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