Pandemic prompts four in 10 young people to talk about death, study finds

Four in 10  young people in the UK say that the Covid-19 pandemic has prompted them to have a conversation about dying, new research from Dignity Funerals has revealed.

A survey of 1,500 people published jointly with the Dying Matters Coalition to coincide with Dying Matters Week, uncovers the conversations people in the UK have had about dying and end of life during April 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown.

The research finds that more than a quarter of people (28%) say they have had more conversations about things such as their end of life care, funeral wishes or financial preparations in the past few weeks. 

The increase is “especially prominent” among Generation Z (38%) and Millennials (40%).  Only 9% of people say they are having fewer conversations. When asked how they felt after having these conversations, members of Generation Z were most likely to describe feeling “uncomfortable”, “emotional”, and “depressed”.

By contrast, while older people also describe the conversations as “emotional”, they generally described talking about death and dying as a positive experience; the most common words they used to describe how they felt were “reassured”, “positive” and “relieved”.

This study also revealed that  one in five (20%) of people have talked to someone about their end of life wishes, as well as 17% of people surveyed have asked a family member about their end of life wishes.

The study suggested only small minorities have spoken about the kind of end of life care they want (14%) or where they would like to die (13%). Older generations are the least likely to have had these conversations.   

Also, 30% of people have had a conversation with friends and family about what they want their funeral to be like.  

Simon Cox, head of insight, Dignity:“What is immediately striking about these findings is that while Covid-19 may have increased the number of young people talking about dying and the end of life, they find talking about it very difficult. 

“By contrast, for older people these conversations tend to be a relatively positive experience, giving them reassurance and a sense of relief.” 

He added: “The value older people get from talking about dying with their children and grandchildren comes through clearly in this research, but if we are to increase the number of these conversations, we need to find a way to bridge this gap between the generations.

“As funeral directors, we know how important it is for people to talk about their end of life wishes. Trying to organise a funeral when you’re not sure exactly what your loved one would have wanted adds an additional worry during an already difficult time.”

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