Almost 18 million people in the countryare uncomfortable talking about death while four million people have experienced financial hardship as a result of someone’s death.
Those are just some of the results from the Manchester based Co-op’s biggest ever survey into death, dying and bereavement.
The survey commissioned by Co-op, conducted by YouGov and supported by a coalition of national charities, was opened to the nation in May this year
It is the first time national attitudes towards death have been looked at on such a scale.
The findings, released in a broader report “Making Peace With Death”, highlight that further action is needed to tackle the nation’s last taboo. The research uncovered attitudes towards mortality, bereavement and the way in which the nation plans ahead for death.
Almost 5 million people say they are too uncomfortable to talk about their own death at all, with almost 13 million UK adults saying they are uncomfortable, but would be willing to talk.
Whilst we aren’t at ease talking or opening up to others about death, according to the findings, as a nation, people do think about their own mortality.
26 is the average age people first think about their own mortality and a third of us think about their own mortality once a week or more.
When it comes to experiencing a bereavement, the national taboo is having a detrimental impact.
The findings reveal that the average Brit first suffers a bereavement of someone close to them aged 20 and that for half (47%), the death of a close relative or friend is their first recollection of death.
Further findings highlight that grief remains hard to deal with long after a death.
For many of those who were recently bereaved, the period immediately after finding out about the death (52%) or during the funeral (46%) were amongst the most difficult.
However birthdays (26%), the anniversary of their death (25%), Christmas or religious festivals (21%) and the return to work (12%) were also referenced as times when it was hard to deal with grief.
A further area uncovered through the research, is how the taboo is leading to a failure to plan ahead.Across the UK, 81% of people have not yet saved anything towards a funeral.
Nationally people have a good awareness of a what a funeral costs, with people thinking it is £3750 on average while over a quarter (27%) have written a will, just one in 20 (6%) have nominated a lasting power of attorney and only 5% have put a funeral plan in place.
Robert MacLachlan, Managing Director of Co-op Funeralcare and Life Planning, said
“We see increasingly that a failure to properly deal with death has a knock on impact for the bereaved, affecting mental health and also triggering financial hardship. We’re committed to doing right by our clients and more needs to be done nationally to tackle this.
“It’s overwhelming that the survey led to 30,000 people sharing their views. Now that we have such a wealth of insight on what stops the nation engaging with death and bereavement, we can start to address these areas and work with others to drive genuine social change.”
Julia Samuel, author of the bestselling book Grief Works, comments:
“This Co-op survey being on such a large scale is both convincing and fascinating. It gives us concrete evidence of the extent that death is unvoiced in our society and shows that we need to find a way to bring those thoughts and fears out into the open.
’’The fear of talking about death, both their own, and of those they love, means that people are not receiving the support they most need at the time, and following their bereavement. This support is the predictor of their outcome, for good or ill. When someone dies it is the love and support of others that enables us to heal and find a way of living again.
’’I welcome this survey as part of the wider Co-op campaign to improve the support and care of bereaved families.’’