How Are Attitudes Towards Death Changing In The UK?

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Disclaimer: This article is based on data taken from the 2020 British Seniors Funeral Report. For up-to-date information on funeral costs, please see our more recent 2021 Funeral Costs Report

Death is often a subject that many of us would rather brush under the rug. After all, it can be an unpleasant topic that brings up negative feelings like anxiety, sadness and fear. That’s probably why the 2020 British Seniors Funeral Report showed that 31% of respondents don’t like to talk about their own death. 

On the other hand, 4 in 10 respondents think people are becoming more comfortable with conversations about death. So, while death has always been a touchy subject, it appears that our attitude could be changing for the better.

Statistic graphic highlighting that 4 in 10 respondents think people are becoming more comfortable with the conversation around death

(Figures taken from the British Seniors 2020 Funeral Report)

Why does our attitude towards death matter?

How we think and feel about death can affect our ability to discuss our passing with our loved ones. It could also prevent us from making arrangements to help plan or pay for our own funeral. You might put it off because you don’t like to think about dying or you might not know how to have a conversation about death with your loved ones. But it could be important to discuss your funeral plans otherwise those close to you could be left feeling confused or overwhelmed.

It’s also important that we minimise the stigma associated with discussing death as it could do more harm than good to ignore it. Organisations like Dying Matters have appeared in recent years. The following statement from their website explains their mission...

“The Coalition’s Mission is to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for the end of life. This will involve a fundamental change in society in which dying, death and bereavement will be seen and accepted as the natural part of everybody’s life cycle. Changes in the way society views dying and death have impacted on the experience of people who are dying and bereaved. Our lack of openness has affected the quality and range of support and care services available to patients and families. It has also affected our ability to die where or how we would wish.” - Dying Matters

Our Funeral Report also showed that 19% of respondents said they wouldn’t know how to go about planning a funeral. The fact is, being open about your wishes and planning in advance could save your loved ones a lot of stress when the time comes. 

And it’s not just funeral planning that can be a stressful experience, covering the cost of a funeral could leave your family in debt. These days, we’re looking at forking out up to £5,000 for a funeral, depending on the choices we make. While £2,003 is the average contribution we make for items like funeral notice, obituary, flowers and burial plots. This is mostly covered by personal savings, credit cards and borrowed money*. 

By allowing ourselves to think practically about our death or the death of a loved one, we can help our family prepare by providing guidance on our funeral wishes or by helping financially prepare for a funeral.

Has this change in attitudes affected funerals?

It seems that funerals have changed somewhat in recent years. The modernisation of funerals could be a response to changing attitudes towards death. It looks as if we are moving away from more traditional approaches to funeral planning. This is a sign that we’re thinking differently about death and saying goodbye. From our findings, it seems that personalisation is a big factor in funerals and there appears to be a sway towards a happier, less mournful farewell.

For instance, attendees at a funeral might not be expected to wear black, the funeral might be focused on remembering the good times you had with someone you love, there may be live music performances, even games at the funeral or wake. Here are some of the ways in which funerals are modernising:

Infographic showing different ways funerals are modernising Infographic showing different ways funerals are modernising

(Figures taken from the British Seniors 2020 Funeral Report)

Are we more prepared for funerals these days?

Becoming comfortable with thinking about (and talking about) death means that we can be more prepared. When we come to terms with death, we can make arrangements, make our funeral wishes clear and most importantly, we can help to protect our loved ones from the stress of planning and paying for every aspect of our funeral.

Despite funeral cost awareness becoming more prominent in the media, 2 in 5 respondents said they don’t have any money or life insurance in place for their own funeral*. It seems while people appear to be ok with talking about their death, we still have a long way to go when it comes to preparation.

If you’re one of the 35% of respondents who want to protect their family and relatives from these costs*, then it could be worthwhile looking into Over 50 Life Insurance. We offer a range of plans that can help you secure financial support for your loved ones after you’ve passed away. Our Over 50 Life Insurance guarantees a lump sum to your family when you’re gone that can be used for end-of-life expenses, and our Funeral Insurance Plan is specifically designed to help your loved ones cope with funeral costs. We also offer Seniors Term Life Insurance, which provides up to £100,000 of cover for a fixed term of 20 years, or the policy anniversary following your 89th birthday. Whatever plan suits you best, our experienced customer service team are here to help. You can call us for free on 0800 803 0052.

*British Seniors 2020 Funeral Report