Ignorance about reality of death heightens fears about final hours: Study

While death is inevitable, a new study shows that many people don’t actually know what’s involved in the final hours of life. Source: Getty

Death is an inevitability and while many people have witnessed a loved one passing away, a new study has revealed the majority don’t actually know what’s involved in the final hours of life.

Data released by the Academy of Medical Sciences found that while as many as one in two people have been present when someone has passed away, six in 10 people know “just a little” about what happens at death.

Researchers, who surveyed a total of 966 British adults, discovered that people are just as likely to get their information about the end of life from documentaries as they are from medical professionals and around half of all people rely on information they learn from friends and family.

Results showed that the 20 per cent of people with the least knowledge about death got their information from documentaries and 22 per cent got information from medical professionals.

Alarmingly, 16 per cent of people got their information from films, dramas and soaps, but the majority of people, 42 per cent, said they learned about death from their loved ones. While a further 33 per cent learned about death from personal experience of being with someone in the final stages of their life.

“Without doubt this shows we need to do more to give people access to reliable information about what happens at the end of life and encourage conversations about this important topic,” Robert Lechler, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said in a statement. “Not knowing what may happen to a loved one as they die can exacerbate fears at the hardest times of our life.

Read more: Poorer Australians more likely to experience a worse death: Study

“It may also mean that people struggle to think clearly about how best to fulfil the wishes of a dying family member or friend, let alone know what to ask doctors and nurses.”

As part of the research, participants were also given the opportunity to opt out of answering sensitive questions. A third of all participants refused to answer sensitive questions, with researchers suggesting this could mean many people feel uncomfortable talking about death. They also said television and movies aren’t always accurate when they cover death storylines.

“TV and films rarely ever depict ‘normal’ deaths. For many individuals, death is a gentle, peaceful and pain-free event,” Lesley Fallowfield, Professor of Psycho Oncology at the University of Sussex, said in a statement. “Although grieving the loss of loved ones can be a difficult process, some people do speak about their loved one’s death as having been a positive experience. We need to demystify death and talk about it more.”

The study also revealed the biggest concerns people have when it comes to death, with 62 per cent admitting pain was their biggest worry. Over half of people, 52 per cent, were concerned about a person feeling frightened when they were dying and 40 per cent were worried that the person would be panicked at the end of their life.

What are your thoughts on this study? Have you witnessed a loved one at the end of their life?

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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