New research reveals how Australians feel about end-of-life, death and dying

87% Australians agree that at least some end-of-life planning is important however many often experience barriers to taking action

New research has revealed the attitudes, behaviours and experiences of Australians around death, dying and end-of-life planning. The study, commissioned by leading not-for-profit The Groundswell Project Australia, reveals that while nine in ten (87%) Australians believe it is important to do some end-of-life planning, only one in three (35%) have actually taken action.

The research shows that almost two in three (64%) Australians feel there are challenges and barriers to them undertaking end-of-life planning – including death and dying being too emotional to think about (14%), not knowing where to start (17%), or where to get help or information (16%) and not understanding their choices when it comes to end-of-life (15%).

However, the research also explored the perceived benefits of end-of-life planning at all stages of life. Most profoundly, Australians say that if they were to die unexpectedly, having some end-of-life planning in place would help the people they care about.

With almost half (48%) saying it would lessen the mental burden of organising financial and legal affairs on their loved ones; and two in five (40%) believe that their loved ones would be comforted by knowing for certain what they want to have happen after they die. Almost a third (30%) believe it would help their loved ones grieve and heal more readily.

Cherelle Martin, Dying to Know Campaign Manager at The Groundswell Project Australia, says that these results reinforce the importance of reshaping the way we approach death in our communities, especially at a time where the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we live, die and grieve.

“Death is often over-medicalised and institutionalised. Our superstitions, fears, discomfort, and lack of knowledge about dying affect our approach to end-of-life. This new data emphasises that Australians think conversations – and action – around end-of-life is important,” said Cherelle.

“This new research highlights the many ways in which people can feel ill equipped to act or start a conversation. Sadly, this can mean that end-of-life experiences are not aligned with an individual’s values, preferences or wishes.”

“At a time where our mortality is a part of our collective consciousness like never before, it is crucial to ensure that we normalise conversations around death and dying, so Australians can ‘get dead set’,” said Cherelle.

The Groundswell Project Australia’s Dying to Know campaign – which culminates on Dying to Know Day on 8 August – aims to improve death literacy and positivity in individuals and communities through local events. Death literacy is the knowledge, compassion and practical skills that enable supportive action and active decision-making around someone’s end-of-life choices. 

The national campaign asks people of all ages and stages of life to ‘get dead set’ around the reality of death and dying – because it’s going to happen to us all.

The campaign, which has the support of Australian actress and writer Anna Lindner, invites Australians to overcome their fears or discomfort around death and take action on end-of-life planning in a way that is right for them. It outlines simple steps people can take around end-of-life planning, which is personal and unique to everyone.

There are three key ways Australians can ‘get dead set’:

  1. Capture your choices in writing. Like a will, substitute decision maker and guidance on your social media or organ donation. These could be documents, or as simple as a text or scribble on a serviette to start.
  2. Have conversations with loved ones and others so they understand your wishes – and you understand theirs.
  3. Prepare your send-off. Share what you want it to look like so you can be celebrated and remembered in line with your wishes.

“Dying To Know Day provides Australians with an opportunity to come together, join the conversation and get dead set. Our localised events give people safe spaces to engage in meaningful conversations around death and learn more about how we can prepare for end-of-life,” said Cherelle.

To register your Dying to Know event, find an event or access support for your end-of-life planning journey, visit www.dyingtoknowday.com. The campaign provides supporting resources and workshops to guide your discussions, and a toolkit to help promote your gathering or event.

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