2.2 million Scots unable to talk about funeral wishes

Sunday March 17th 2024

According to Co-op's newest report, the vast majority of people haven't made a will or arranged life insurance

Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

Co-op reveals death disconnect: 2.2M Scots unable to talk about funeral wishes despite nearly a million thinking about death weekly

Over a fifth (21%) of Scots think about their own death as regularly as once a week, and over half are doing so monthly, according to new research launched by Co-op today.

In spite of this, 2.2 million Scots are at risk of not having their affairs in order when they die, due to a reluctance in discussing their own funeral wishes with their loved ones.

The study forms the basis of Co-op’s state of the nation Planning for Death report – backed by YouGov – based on the views of over 16,000 UK adults and 18,000 Co-op member owners and is an-depth investigation into the nation’s attitudes towards death, dying, bereavement and later life planning.

Co-op, which is owned by its 5 million members, is encouraging greater comfort and openness in talking to loved ones about funeral wishes and death, gathering the thoughts and attitudes towards death of over 60,000 people across the UK, including 24,000 Co-op member owners, since 2018.

Despite death being top of mind for many, less than half (49%) of people in Scotland have openly talked about their funeral wishes with loved ones. Co-op’s report also reveals that just over a third (35%) said they are comfortable with and have talked to loved ones about their own death, while over a tenth (12%) said they were not comfortable and would not discuss it at all.

Co-op is encouraging the nation to talk to loved ones about their funeral wishes to avoid the emotional burden of not knowing how their loved one would want to be remembered. The research reveals the disconnect between talking about death and ensuring loved ones’ wishes are fulfilled when the times comes, as making sure all requests of the deceased are fulfilled is the number one priority for almost two fifths (39%) of people in Scotland, ahead of funeral costs (32%) and who attends the funeral service (23%).

Research from Co-op’s Planning for Death report indicates that for many, reaching a significant milestone in life can prompt thoughts about their funeral wishes and later life planning. For example, 41% of Scots took out life insurance after buying a house. However, the frequency of such milestones – such as people buying houses and having children – are happening later in life amongst certain demographics, leading to a potential gap in important planning conversations across UK households.

This gap is further compounded by life expectancy falling nationally to the lowest levels in a decade, and state retirement age likely to increase in the coming years. While data from Co-op Funeralcare shows the average age at which a person takes out a funeral plan to be 73 years old, which has risen by over 10 years since 2021, when the average age was just over 62 years old.

These factors together are contributing to a shorter window for people planning ahead for death, and, alongside the potential emotional impact this could have on loved ones, family finances are also more exposed to sudden shocks and last wishes potentially unfulfilled.

Despite half (50%) of people in Scotland having thoughts about their own mortality before the age of 20, fewer than half (49%) have discussed their funeral wishes with those close to them. Alarmingly, 75% said they haven’t made a will, with half (51%) saying this is because ‘they haven’t got round to it yet’.

Similarly, four fifths (77%) don’t have life insurance, with over a quarter (28%) saying they don’t need it. And when we consider that almost half (48%) of those who had lost someone in the last five years said it was ‘sudden’, loved ones could be left to face a huge financial burden during an already difficult time.

Gill Stewart, Managing Director of Co-op Funeralcare, said: “The findings of our research, taken from across the UK, and including the experiences of our Co-op member owners, reveals the variety of triggers that can spark thoughts about mortality, from personal experiences, milestone moments to global events played out in the news.

“Despite this, our findings highlight a real missing link between thinking, talking and even planning. It can be uncomfortable to discuss planning for death and funerals with loved ones, especially for fear of upsetting them – but we believe this is precisely why those conversations are crucial.

“We know that talking to loved ones now can help them later. Putting in place funeral plans, life insurance, a will or even a Lasting Power of Attorney, can go a long way in safeguarding loved ones when the time comes.

“That’s why really we encourage people to have open and honest conversations about their wishes with loved ones.”

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