Six out of 10 ‘have not spoken to family about wishes if they were to die’

Macmillan research shows people put off talking about death and their wishes Credit: PA

Six out of 10 people in the UK have not spoken to their family or friends about their wishes if they were to die, research suggests.

A poll for Macmillan Cancer Support found 62% of people have avoided talking about the subject, while 36% have done no planning for their death.

Four out of 10 of these people said they did not feel the need to worry about it yet, while 14% said they had more important things to do.

Meanwhile, 23% of those who had recently lost someone did not know all of the person’s wishes and suffered as a result either emotionally, financially or in a practical sense.

Almost one in five (19%) of these people were unsure whether the funeral was what the person would have wanted, while 9% faced unexpected financial costs.

Dr Karen Roberts, chief nurse at Macmillan, said: “Starting vital conversations about death with your loved ones and making plans can help you feel less anxious about the future.

“When you know that your practical and financial affairs are taken care of, you can get on with living life as fully as you can.

“Death is something all of us will face at some point and being diagnosed with cancer often forces people to think about their mortality, whatever the prognosis.

“Talking about death with those close to us can be difficult, but Macmillan is right there with you, providing information and advice to help you find the words to say and make sure your wishes are recorded.”

The charity says people should start “death planning”, including making decisions on how and where they would like to be cared for at the end of life, choosing the type of funeral they want and making a will.

Emma Young, a 40-year-old mother-of-three from Hertfordshire who was diagnosed with incurable breast and bone cancer in 2014, said: “For lots of people, including those close to me, death is such a taboo subject and it’s definitely not something they want to acknowledge or speak about.

“I guess it’s normal to just want to bury your head in the sand.

“But for me, and for many of my friends living with cancer, having things in order for when the inevitable comes is something that gives a sense of control. People die every day and personally, I’d rather be prepared than not.”

The YouGov survey included more than 2,000 people.