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British Social Attitudes: UK public will talk about dying, but won't plan for death

13 May 2013 | Tags: British Social Attitudes, dying

New findings from NatCen Social Research's British Social Attitudes survey have been released today by the Dying Matters Coalition, revealing a lack of end of life planning by the British public.

The research, published during Dying Matters Awareness Week, explores how comfortable people are talking about death, revealing that 70 per cent say they feel comfortable, while 13 per cent are uncomfortable.

However, it also suggests that this comfort discussing death is not always translated into discussions and planning. British Social Attitudes shows that only five per cent of people say they have a living will or advance care plan and only 11 per cent have written plans for their funeral. It also reveals that less than half of people (45%) have discussed what their wishes would be if they did not have long to live.

Penny Young, Chief Executive of NatCen Social Research, said "Today's findings are an excellent example of what the British Social Attitudes survey is for. Most people in our study have discussed dying and many have definite preferences about the end of their life, yet very few have taken any steps to prepare for death. Understanding public attitudes and behaviour around this important public policy issue is essential for organisations like the Dying Matters Coalition if they are to raise awareness and influence policymakers."

Eve Richardson, Chief Executive of the Dying Matters Coalition and the National Council for Palliative Care added: "It's encouraging that older people are becoming more comfortable discussing dying and their end of life wishes, but as a nation too many of us are still shunning the conversations that can help avoid heartbreak and regret at the end of life. You don't have to be ill or dying to make plans for your future, which is why we are calling on people across the country to take practical steps by writing a will, recording their funeral wishes, planning their future care and support, considering registering as an organ donor and telling loved ones their wishes."

This is the first time that the survey has asked these questions about end of life issues and the full chapter explores a range of other related matters, from where people would want to die to whether they would want to know if they are terminally ill.


For more information contact Leigh Marshall 0207 549 8506 or to speak with the Dying Matters Coalition contact Joe Levenson on 020 7697 1520/07795 158003, Hilary Nathan on 07890 127074 or the Dying Matters team on 0800 021 4466.

Notes to editors

NatCen Social Research, Britain's largest independent social research organisation, aims to promote a better-informed society through high quality social research (

NatCen Social Research interviewed 2,145 adults in Britain on their attitudes to dying as part of the 2012 British Social Attitudes survey, with face-to-face interviews taking place between July and September, with a small number of interviews taking place in October and November. From 13 May the British Social Attitudes chapter on attitudes to dying based on this research will be available at and Where comparisons with 2009 have been made, this is with reference to a 2009 NatCen Social Research Omnibus of 1,295 adults in Britain carried out on behalf of Dying Matters.

The Dying Matters Coalition ( aims to help transform public attitudes towards dying, death and bereavement in England. It is led by the National Council for Palliative Care, and has over 30,000 members including charities, care homes, hospices, GPs, funeral directors and legal and financial organisations.