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 have died.
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 November 5, 2020 there are more than 48.5 million persons that have or were infected with Coronavirus. Of those there were more than 1.2 million deaths. How do these compare with Jehovah’s Witnesses?
According to the 2019 Service Year Report, there was a peak of 8.6 million Jehovah’s Witnesses. With that number we find that 1.5% of all Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide have contracted Covid-19. How does that compare with the general population?
As of November 5, 2020, there are some 7.8 Billion people on the planet. Using that figure, we find that 0.6% of the world’s population have contracted Covid-19. This means, respectively, that Jehovah’s Witnesses have 2.5 times more cases than the general population.
Let’s look at the deaths as a percentage. With more than 5000 deaths, we discover that more than 3.8% of the number of Covid-19 cases within Jehovah’s Witnesses resulted in death. Comparatively, there were 1.2 million deaths worldwide. This number as a percentage of COVID-19 cases worldwide is 2.5%. Comparatively, it means that Jehovah’s Witnesses have 1.5 times as many deaths as the general population.
Why have we more cases of COVVID-19 than the general population? And why are more of us dying than the general population? To answer these questions precisely, 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. This is true except maybe in countries that have a quality social system in place to care for the lower income families. 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, 5000 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 the secular employment of anyone in the household 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 significantly reduce the number of dead Jehovah’s Witnesses.