YouGov Death Study: Britons on life after death

Milan DinicDirector - Content Strategy and Innovation
October 06, 2021, 1:39 PM GMT+0

How many Britons believe in an afterlife?

The YouGov Death Study finds that a third of Britons (33%) believe in an afterlife, but four in ten (42%) don’t.

Women (38%) are more likely than men (26%) to believe in life after death.

Among men, the belief in the afterlife falls with age – from 39% among 16-24-year-olds, to just 20% for men in their 60s or older. For women the figure remains about constant.

Among religious Britons who actively practice their faith, 69% say they believe in the afterlife, but 11% do not. Among people who say they are not religious, 17% say they believe in the afterlife, compared to 59% who don’t.

What kind of afterlife do Britons believe in?

Among the third of Britons who said they believe in the afterlife, the greatest proportion (43%) think what happens is that the soul goes to heaven or a similar place where it lives on. One in six (16%) believe in reincarnation and 6% believe in becoming a spirit. A further 22% say they believe there is something after death but are not sure what.

Among practicing religious Britons who believe in the afterlife, seven in ten (71%) say that the soul continues to live on, compared to a third (34%) of those who don’t practice their religion but believe in the afterlife, and 11% of afterlife-believers who are not affiliated with any religion.

Three in ten Britons who don’t belong to a particular religion and think there is an afterlife believe in reincarnation (30%), and another 31% believe there is something but are not sure what.

Do Britons believe in heaven and hell?

When asked directly whether they believe in the existence of heaven or hell, three in ten Britons (30%) believe that heaven exists, with 18% saying they think hell exists too. Over half of the population (54%) don’t believe in either.

Among men, six in ten (60%) don’t believe in heaven or in hell, compared to 48% of women.

The results show that the older men are the more likely they are to say they believe in neither heaven nor in hell – ranging from 49% among 16-24-year-olds, to 64% among men 60 or older.

Among Britons who practice their religion, about half (47%) believe in both heaven and hell, compared to 10% of non-religious Britons. One in four (26%) practicing religious Brits believe only in heaven and one in eight (13%) don’t believe in either.

When it comes to those who are not religious, eight in ten (78%) believe that neither heaven nor hell exist.

Can you contact the dead?

The YouGov Death Study also shows that one in five Britons (19%) believe that it is possible to contact the dead. This belief is more widespread among women (25%) than men (13%).

Just under a quarter of Britons who belong to a particular religion whether they practice or not (23-24%) say they believe it is possible to contact the dead. This view is held by 16% of those who don’t belong to any religion.

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