Attitudes of the General Population, Cancer Patients, Their Family Caregivers, and Physicians toward Dying and Death: A Nationwide Survey

  •  Young Ho Yun    
  •  Kyoung-Nam Kim    
  •  Jin-Ah Sim    
  •  Jihye Lee    
  •  Jiyeon Choo    
  •  Ah Reum An    
  •  Shin Hye Yoo    
  •  Bhumsuk Keam    
  •  Tae You Kim    
  •  Yoon Jung Chang    
  •  Yu Jung Kim    
  •  Hyun-Jeong Shim    
  •  Na-Ri Lee    
  •  Jung Hun Kang    
  •  Jung Hye Kwon    
  •  Jung Lim Lee    
  •  Soon Nam Lee    
  •  Si-Young Kim    
  •  Eun Joo Kang    
  •  Young Rok Do    
  •  Hwan-Jung Yun    
  •  Kyung Hae Jung    


Little is known about people’s attitudes toward death. We aimed to examine attitudes toward death and to investigate their associations with health status in various participant groups. We administered nationwide questionnaires to a total of 4,107 individuals including general Korean population, cancer patients, family caregivers, and physicians. Association of attitudes toward five aspects of dying and death—the ending of life, fearing death because it is painful, anticipating an afterlife, preparing to practice charity and being remembered—and physical, mental, social, and spiritual health status were also analyzed. Attitudes differed. Most (63.4%-76.2%) accepted that death is the ending of life, 45.6%-58.8% feared a painful death, 47.6%-55.0% anticipated an afterlife, 88.5%-93.0% expected to forgive, and 89.9%-94.1% expected to be remembered after death. The general population, cancer patients, and family caregivers had similar attitudes but had more positive attitudes than physicians on the ending of life, fearing a painful death, and anticipating an afterlife. Accepting death as the ending of life and fear of death pain were inversely associated with mental, social, spiritual, or general health status, but participants anticipating an afterlife, expecting to forgive, or expecting to be remembered showed better social, spiritual, or general health status. This nationwide study of various participant groups shows that attitudes toward dying and death were associated with mental, social, spiritual, or general health, but not physical health status. These data suggest that sensitive and skillful discussions of death and dying might contribute to peaceful end of life.

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