For some seniors, family support increases end-of-life fears

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Some groups of elderly people actually report being more afraid of death if they have a strong family network of caregivers, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University College London interviewed roughly 1,000 people from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds—including Indian, Pakistani, black Caribbean, Chinese and white—for their study of attitudes toward death. They discovered that nearly one-third of ethnic minorities interviewed lived in a household with four or more adults and two-thirds had a large family network that could help with caregiving. Only 1% of whites lived in such a household while roughly one-third had a family caregiving network, according to the study.

Ethnic minority groups were much more likely to report extreme fears of death in the four sampled categories: fear of the mode of death, fear of not being able to control their death, fear of dying itself, and fear of being in pain. In three out of the four categories, having a large family network was associated with higher reports of fear of death among the ethnic groups.

“Practitioners should not assume that fears about dying are the same in different social groups, or that extensive family support is protective against such anxiety,” researchers concluded. Their report was published online in the March 30 edition of the Postgraduate Medical Journal.

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