United Kingdom

Death is taboo for a third of Brits

October 2018

A third of Brits find it difficult to talk about death and 81 per cent have not saved towards a funeral, according to a YouGov poll.

As Benjamin Franklin famously said in 1789: “nothing is certain except death and taxes”, yet death is a taboo subject among a third of Brits surveyed in a YouGov poll in partnership with the Co-op.

Therefore it is no surprise the survey found that 81 per cent of us have not saved any money towards a funeral.

Health Insurance reported on the poll, which found that 91 per cent of Brits (from a survey of 30,000 people), have thought about their own mortality, with 35 per cent thinking about it once a week or more. The article highlighted the main reasons for people considering their mortality and these included the death of a family member (28 per cent), reaching a milestone age (22 per cent) and a medical diagnosis for someone they know (17 per cent).

According to the Co-op’s news release, the survey provides an “understanding of the nation’s attitudes and what is putting people off planning ahead”.

The survey revealed that due to a lack of financial planning for later life, four million people have experienced financial hardship as a result of someone’s death.

Around 16 per cent kept a recent bereavement private, 24 per cent kept as busy as possible and 12 per cent got back to work as soon as they could.

Just over a quarter have written a will, six per cent have nominated a lasting power of attorney and only five per cent have put a funeral plan in place.

Robert MacLachlan, managing director of Co-op Funeralcare and Life Planning, said a failure to properly deal with death has a knock on impact for the bereaved, affecting mental health and also triggering financial hardship.

Suzanne Summerfield, Health Management Consultant at Aon suggested that society had become “more distant from the reality of death” despite our regular desensitisation to dying on television screens.

She said: “As we usually don’t experience bereavement until we get older we don’t know how it feels. Often we can be frightened of our own mortality and together with the perceived taboo around talking about death it can be hard to share feelings.”

Summerfield recommended employers have some training in how to help staff cope with the different stages of grief, and that staff open up to bosses to let them know what is going on. She said: “Sometimes the everyday demands of family and work mean that some people just do not have the time to grieve properly and this can lead to mental health issues later on.

“Coming to terms with the loss of someone is a gradual process and looking after your own mental and physical health during this time is important.”

Employers could “more actively” signpost staff to benefits such as life cover, employee assistance programmes and help with will writing.

Charles Alberts, Aon’s Head of Health Management, added: “I agree that training for line managers to ensure better support for employees going through bereavement and mental health difficulties is a positive step. Employers should also consider offering professional support through their employee benefits, such as an Employee Assistance Programme, and ensure line managers proactively signpost employees to these.’


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