Major new survey reveals people’s reluctance to discuss own death

10 February 2010
New research, commissioned by the Dying Matters Coalition, shows that less than a third (29%) of people have discussed their wishes around dying and only four per cent have written advance care plans, despite the fact that more than two thirds (68%) of people questioned say they are comfortable talking about death.

The research, undertaken by NatCen, examines public attitudes to a range of issues relating to death, dying and bereavement. It reveals that while we have strong views about end of life, yet we are still unlikely to have discussed our own death, despite personal experience of issues related to dying. Currently 60% of people die in hospitals, yet the survey reveals that 70% of people would like to die at home, illustrating the importance of talking openly about our wishes if we want them to be met.

A carer talking to a member of the Dying Matters Coalition said:

“It’s not easy to talk about end of life issues, but it’s important to do. Now that we’ve put our affairs in order and are talking about what we want, we can ‘put that in a box’ as it were, and get on with living one day at a time, cherishing each day together, as I know it’s going to end one day.”

A bereaved wife said:

“If you talk about dying, you can say everything you want or need to. There are no regrets.”

Of those people who had not discussed any aspect of their end of life care, 45% felt it was because death feels a long way off, and a further 18% said they were too young to discuss it. Eight per cent of 65-74 year olds thought they were too young to discuss dying.

The new Dying Matters Coalition has been set up to raise awareness and to provide the support and information needed to have these conversations with loved ones. It aims to make dying well a natural part of a good life and through this help change attitudes and behaviours towards death, dying and bereavement. And through this raise the profile and improve end of life care.

Professor Mayur Lakhani, GP and Chair of Dying Matters Coalition, said:

“As a practising GP, I know that many people feel frightened to talk about death for fear of upsetting the person they love. However, it is essential that people do not leave it until it is too late.  Planning for needs and wishes helps you to be in control, and it helps those we leave behind. A good life needs a good ending. This can be achieved by talking about it early on with relatives, friends or carers”.

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Which of the following describes how you would feel talking to someone close to you about their end of life wishes.

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