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What do people really think about death

A recent survey commissioned by Southern Cross Funeral Directors questioned every day Australians about death, dying and the funeral industry and has resulted in some interesting insights, especially when it comes to our preparedness for departing this mortal coil.
61% of the 1006 survey participants indicated that the most important factor to consider when planning a funeral is that it is simple and cost effective.
What was interesting though, that whilst 54% of those asked said that they wanted this simple and cost effective service to serve as a celebration of life and a way to say a final goodbye, 42% of those questioned indicated that they had no idea of the costs involved in the organisation of such a service.

Despite these answers coming from a very diverse and equally spread demographic of women (51%) and men (49%) and likewise comparable participants numbers across age groups ranging from those under 45 (47%) to those over 45 (52.5%), survey responses such as this indicate a hesitancy, and perhaps naivety on the subject. Is it that death and discussions on dying are still seen as somewhat taboo? This subjective undertone, as well as one of nonchalance was also peppered throughout the responses to other questions such as:

  • 54% of those surveyed said their comfort levels on discussing death and dying were dependant on who it was with and the context of the conversation with our younger participants feeling most strongly about this (57% of responses for the age group)
  • Almost 1/3 (29.9%) of those questioned indicated that they were strong avoiding thinking about their own mortality or had a preference not to have to think about it, with again our younger generation ranking above the norm here with 36.5% of their responses falling into these 2 categories.
  • 45% of responders were casual in response suggesting that “what is meant to be will be”, with 50% of the over 65’s indicating this as their answer.
  • Likewise, the empathic resonance was also evident when 26% of participants didn’t have a particular emotion about death or dying, again with our older participants having offered this response 39% of the time.
  • For those who didn’t have any reservations about talking about death (40%), almost just as many participants indicated that they linked such conversations to a sense of angst or sadness (39%)
  • 27% of participants surveyed had no inclination for wanting to make plans for their end of life and have actively avoided doing so. 44% of these people were aged 45 or older.

These indicators of avoidance and indeed, nonchalance could go on to explain why 18% of people had never had a serious conversation about death and dying before and 13% of those questioned didn’t even know that pre-paid funerals were a service that were offered. Is it just society’s view on death that it is something that shouldn’t be discussed that leads us to these findings? 27% of those who didn’t know about pre-paid funerals were over 45. This is over 1 in 4. In fact, beyond this – 36% of those who were asked about their own affairs had said that whilst they had a will in place, they didn’t know how to go about making arrangements beyond this. Could it be because 43% of participants were happy just to leave it up to their family to organise it for them when the time comes?

Yes, 60% of those who participated did indicate that they had never been in the situation where they had needed to organise a funeral before. This response was not just seen in our younger participants (56% of those under 45) 44% of our older generation had also never needed to coordinate a service either. Does this mean that it is something that as we enter adulthood, we shouldn’t have at least a simple grasp on and perhaps take our fate into our own hands so to speak? Matthew Kowka, owner of Southern Cross Funeral Directors, said that options such as pre-paid funeral services can tick those boxes that the survey participants were looking for with being simple and cost effective whilst also relieving a grieving family of further emotional stress.

Death is enviable and is for most instances, out of our control. What we can control is the preparation. If 43% of us agree that serious conversations around death and dying should begin at childhood, Matthew says there is no reason to avoid these discussions.

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