Are Americans Frightened of Death?

In a recent Legacy Preservation Society study on aging and morbidity, Researcher Tania Rain revealed how people feel about the aging process and dying. Random Internet users* ages 19 to 68 (median age = 39) were asked about their own mortality.

When asked: If you had the opportunity to select your age at death, knowing the average life expectancy in the US is 78.2 years old, how old will you live to be?

Respondents answers varied from 59 to 125 years old with a median age 86.

When asked: Out of the top 15 causes of death, if you could control your mortality, which cause would you choose for your own death? (From 2009 National Vital Statistics Report)

Nearly 40% prefer to die of accidents, which is the 5th leading cause of death in the US according to National Vital Statistics report. The number one cause of death is heart disease and 15.7 percent of people surveyed selected that as the cause of their own death. See CDC Vital Statistics.

Causes of Death

Only 8.2% of respondents indicated they are very or extremely fearful of dying.  15% said they are very or extremely fearful of the aging process. The majority of people answered slightly fearful or somewhat fearful of death and aging.

When asked what is your greatest fear of aging from 1 to 6, respondents answered:

1. Memory Loss

2. Loss of Independence

3. Debilitating Disease

4. Chronic Illness

5. Feeling Old

6. Looking Old

Tania wanted to find out if the fear of aging and death was an element causing many people to not be proactive and plan for their older years. One recent study says 49% of Boomers are more fearful of running out of money than they are of death. In another study, 30% of Boomers have not thought about what they will do if they need help with daily living activities such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, etc. Tania now feels that the fear of aging and death does not impact a person’s planning behavior. If people are not fearful of growing older and dying, then there is another reason why they do not plan for their older years.

This study on aging and morbidity shows that people prefer to live as long as possible (within reason) and they don’t want to forget their past experiences due to memory loss. Over one-quarter of people surveyed fear memory lost most. Independence is also very important to people and the thought of losing it causes extreme fear in 24% of respondents.

If people could live longer, they would. The US average lifespan of 78.2 years does not make us believe we will expire at that age.

To learn more about living longer, watch Aubrey de Grey.

Also learn what Dan Buettner has to say about the Blue Zones, where people live to be over 100 years old.

*All respondents were found through Facebook. Total number of responses (n) = 89.

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2 thoughts on “Are Americans Frightened of Death?

  1. Interesting that people would choose to die from an accident. Maybe because it’s quick? You get to live your life “normally” until that unexpected moment?

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