The YouGov Death Study

Milan DinicResearch Manager
October 06, 2021, 1:57 PM UTC

YouGov has conducted a large-scale study on the attitudes and opinions of Britons about death. The study follows a year when the COVID-19 pandemic brought issues surrounding the loss of a loved one and bereavement, consideration of people’s own mortality, and the subject of death in general to the fore for many.

We asked Britons how they view death, how they feel about the meaning of life, the perception of death, fear of dying, and what follows death.

The study was conducted from 19-23 March 2021 on a sample of 2,164 UK adults aged 16 and older.

The survey is divided into the following sections:

Part One: The meaning of life

Part Two: The perception and impact of death

Part Three: The fear of dying

Part Four: Your own death

Part Five: After your own death

Part Six: Life after death

Part Seven: Social issues and death

Part Eight: The value of life

Part Nine: Living forever and reincarnation

Here are the top 14 things we found that show what Britons think about the subject of death:

  1. Six in ten (59%) think life has a meaning, but a quarter (26%) say it does not. Overall, men (34%) are twice as likely than women (18%) to say that life has no meaning. While six in ten (59%) say they’ve lived a meaningful life, 23% said they have not
  2. Many more Britons say they are more worried about the death of someone they love (63%) than their own death (6%). Three quarters (76%) say there is someone for whom they would give their life in order to save theirs, while for 9% there is no-one for whom they would sacrifice their own life
  3. Half (52%) of Britons say they would like to have another life after they die. Just under a quarter (23%) say they would not
  4. Four in ten (41%) would like to live forever (assuming good health and physical appearance), and an equal number (42%) say they would not. But just 10% of Britons think that humans will one day be able to live forever, while nearly three-quarters (73%) think that this won’t ever become possible
  5. Three in ten have been thinking about death at least once a week: 9% report thinking about mortality at least once a day, and another 20% think about it several times during the week
  6. Four in ten (38%) said they began to appreciate life itself more following somebody’s death. More women (31%) than men (21%) say that somebody’s death made them stronger
  7. A quarter of Britons (24%) have had a near death experience, with this applying more to men (28%) than women (20%). Seven in ten (72%) say they feel comfortable talking about their own death. A fifth (22%) say they don’t
  8. One in eleven (9%) Britons think they will be at least 91 or older before they die, while 8% think they’ll be 65 or younger. Another 9% expect not to be remembered at all following their death
  9. Half of Britons (49%) say they have pictured what their funeral will look like. Just 15% of Britons say they’d like to be buried. The greatest number – just under half (45%) – want to be cremated
  10. A third of Britons (33%) believe in an afterlife, but four in ten (42%) don’t. 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
  11. 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%)
  12. A quarter (25%) say that the coronavirus pandemic has affected their views on death, with three quarters of this group reporting becoming more worried about losing loved ones
  13. A vast majority (73%) say all human lives are equally valuable, but a fifth of Britons (20%) do not
  14. A third of Britons (32%) report they have seriously wished death upon someone. Among Britons who practice their religion, a quarter (26%) say this. Over half of Britons (56%) think it can be acceptable to celebrate someone’s death

See the full results here