What do Americans want to happen after they die?

Jamie BallardData Journalist
January 22, 2019, 3:00 PM GMT+0

More than one-third say they'd like to be cremated after they die

Whatever happens after death might be a morbid topic, but most Americans have given it some thought — especially when it comes to the financial and environmental impacts of their death care.

Of course, some people would prefer to never think about what happens after death, because they don’t want to ever die. According to new data from YouGov Omnibus, one in five (19%) people agreed with the statement “I want to live forever.” A plurality (42%) chose “I want to live longer than a normal lifespan, but not forever” as the statement that comes closest to their views, while 23% say “I don't want to live longer than a normal lifespan.”

Americans 55 and older are the most likely of any age group to say they don’t want to live longer than normal (29%), while 18-34-year-olds are the most likely to say they want to live forever (24%).

It’s rather unlikely that living forever will be an option for most people. When they do eventually die, the aspect Americans are most concerned about is the financial impact of death care on their family. The cost of an average funeral in the US is more than $7,000, and that doesn’t necessarily account for every expense associated with a person’s death.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they are somewhat (27%) or very (38%) concerned about this after-death issue. People who parents to children under 18 years old are especially likely to be very concerned (46%) about this.

While it might not be quite as big a concern, the environmental impact of death care is also something Americans are paying attention to. Around four in ten (41%) Americans are somewhat or very concerned about the environmental impact of traditional burial methods.

On a similar note, 45% agreed with the statement, “People need to rethink the way we currently deal with ‘death care’ in regard to the environment.” And 11% said that they would like to have a green burial with shrouds and biodegradable material after they die.

Some of the possible environmental impacts of a traditional burial include embalming fluid leaking into the soil, large amounts of water being used for cemetery maintenance, and wood and metal caskets leaving behind toxic residue.

While 11% say they’d like a green burial, a plurality (38%) say they would like their body to be cremated after they die. Another 21% say a traditional in-ground burial with a coffin and embalming is what they would prefer.

A majority (56%) of Americans agree with the statement “A traditional burial is more than I need after death,” while only 13% disagreed. People are more evenly split on the statement “The thought of what happens to the body during natural decomposition is unsettling.” More than one-third (36%) agree, but 31% disagree. About a quarter (26%) say they neither agree nor disagree with the statement.

See full results here.

Learn more about YouGov Omnibus.

Image: Getty

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