In an announcement dated November 2020, instructing members to maintain precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jehovah’s Witnesses revealed that over 130,000 adherents were infected with the virus and that at least 5000 had died. A month later, in a Governing Body Update, Jehovah’s Witness leader, M. Stephen Lett reveals that more than 7500 Jehovah’s Witnesses succumbed to the virus. In late January 2021, this number had increased to over 8600 dead.
As Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is very saddening to hear that so many have been adversely affected by this illness. Deeply concerning is the fact that our numbers are far higher than the general population. If this is true, it would call into question the claim that our God Jehovah protects his people as a group. It is evident that our protection from Jehovah is no better than anyone else. This is borne out by the following statistics.
As of Febrary 16, 2021 there are more than 109 million persons that have or were infected with Coronavirus. Of those there were more than 2.4 million deaths. How do these compare with Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Because the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses have not revealed the current number of infected members, we will extrapolate using the November figures of 130,000 cases and 5000 deaths. If 5000 deaths is equal to 130,000 cases, it is fair to assume that 8600 deaths would mean that there are about 224,000 cases.
According to the 2019 Service Year Report, there was a peak of 8.6 million Jehovah’s Witnesses. Using that figure, we find that about 2.6% of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide contracted Covid-19. How does that compare with the general population?
As of February 16, 2021, there are some 7.8 Billion people on the planet. Using that figure, we find that 1.4% of the world’s population have contracted Covid-19. This means, respectively, that Jehovah’s Witnesses have almost 2 times more cases than the general population.
Let’s look at the deaths as a percentage. With more than 8600 deaths, we find that more than 3.8% of the number of Covid-19 cases within Jehovah’s Witnesses resulted in death. Comparatively, there were more than 2.4 million deaths worldwide. This means that about 2.2% of the number of Covid-19 cases resulted in death. In comparison, Jehovah’s Witnesses have 1.7 times as many deaths as the general population.
Why have we more cases of Covid-19 than the general population? Why are more of us dying than the general population? To answer these questions, we would need to see who died, where they were from, their backgrounds, and any other conditions that may have an affect on the well-being of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Therefore, without such information, we can only suggest some possible reasons.
According to PEW Research, Jehovah’s Witnesses as a group tend to be less educated than other groups. 63% have no more than a high school diploma. For Jehovah’s Witnesses, this is not seen as a concern. Many focus on having a career in preaching, a career that gives them no monetary reward whatsoever. Instead, they take on menial jobs, such as house cleaning or window cleaning, to finance their preaching activity. It is not surprising then that PEW Research claims that 48% of Jehovah’s Witnesses make less than $30k per year. Therefore, choosing a career that keeps about half of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the lower income bracket, we have a cohort of people that are unlikely to be able to afford proper health care, unless the country they reside in as a quality social system in place to care for the poor in society. Therefore, when pandemics such as Covid-19 come along, poor education and lifestyle choices could be a contributing factor to their increased figures.
PEW Research claims that about 52% of Jehovah’s Witnesses are above the age of 50. Age is considered a contributing factor to COVID-19 related deaths. According to NATURE, those over the age of 80 are at highest risk with those over 50 at an intermediate risk. There are other risk factors such as gender, ethnicity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, respiratory disease and cancer. However, with a high number of older persons within the Jehovah’s Witness community, this could be a contributing factor to their increased figures.
In any case, 8600 deaths within a small religious group such as Jehovah’s Witnesses is very concerning. While the branches are providing specific direction to special full-time servants, it is of benefit for families to consider the four questions in the November 2020 announcement (revised to remove misogynistic terminology):
- Does the nature of one’s secular employment increase their risk of exposure to the virus?
- Are any members of the household elderly, or do they have underlying health conditions?
- How rapidly is the virus spreading in the community?
- What are the government directives for the area?
Considering these questions and putting measures in place to reduce the possible risk of exposure may help to reduce the numbers infected with Covid-19 and help prevent further deaths. More than 8600 Jehovah’s Witnesses dead is more than 8600 that should not have died.
The 8.6 million JWs is active publishers and doesn’t include children or inactive ones. A more realistic figure would be about 12 to 14 million. Then consider that not many live in india and china so comparing figures with the global population is not like for like.
As pointed out the age demographic is clearly a factor. Also what about individuals who live with non witnesses – exposure cannot be isolated.