People '˜more open' to discussing death but are failing to plan for it, study shows

People in Yorkshire are more open to talking about their death, or that of people close to them, than they were five years ago, but many still find it difficult and are failing to plan their affairs, research has shown.

Ahead of Dying Matters Awareness Week, which starts on Monday, new research suggests that 55 per cent of people in the region have become more comfortable talking about death - higher than the national average of 52 per cent - and more than a third, 36 per cent, have made a will.

More than two thirds, 68 per cent, say they would help someone organise or record their end of life plans, such as planning a funeral or arranging lasting power of attorney - but almost half, 47 per cent said talking or thinking about death scares them.

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Claire Henry, chief executive of the National Council for Palliative Care and Dying Matters Coalition, which carried out the survey said: “There is a lot of good news in this survey, along with some things that cause concern. It is good to see that so many people not only feel comfortable talking about death, but also that so many feel increasingly comfortable over time. And it’s encouraging that so many people would be willing to help someone else make end of life plans, and that so many feel they have someone they could go to for help.

“But it is concerning that this talk is not resulting in more action to get our plans and affairs in order. Talking about death is nothing to be scared of, and won’t make it happen. We all need to start to have this big conversation as part of the way we plan and prepare for all the important things in life. And words need to be followed by action.

“We need to talk to our loved ones about what we want, sort our plans out, write them down and make sure people know where to find them. Putting our end of life plans in place enables us to get on with living. It takes a weight off our minds, and makes things easier for those we love as well.”

University of York professor of sociology Celia Kitzinger, who has co-organised events in York to discuss death over the last three years, said talking about end of life issues is “still a taboo”.

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“Talking about dying won’t make it happen, but there is still almost a superstitious feeling that if you talk about it, it will happen sooner,” she said. While it seems that we can share very public grief, for example, with celebrity deaths, of which there have been so many this year - what can be really hard is talking seriously about our own death.

“Last year a lady in her 80s came to our Death Cafe and told us that no one in her family would talk about her death with her - her children would tell her to stop being so morbid. But it is so important that people know your wishes. Only a third of us have written a will and a quarter have written advanced decisions.

“The tragedy can be for the people left behind - planning properly can make life easier for them.”

Two days of workshops, talks performance and conversation exploring death and dying will take place for the third time in York this weekend.

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Organised by Prof Kitzinger as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week, the varied programme reflects on mortality, how to plan your funeral, celebrity deaths, how to make a living will and the impact of social media on how we talk about death. There will also be a performance by Real People Theatre on how we deal with the “final curtain”.

Events, which are all free, take place at Briar House Resources on Museum Street. Visit for the full programme, or call 01757 289453.