Core Modules

module 1 | Activity 2: Individual factors influencing dying and death

Numerous social and cultural factors have influenced the way that dying and death is experienced by people in contemporary Western societies, including:[1-5]

Age Death is often viewed as something that happens in older age. This can make the death of younger people especially difficult to understand. It can also mean that older people who are dying may receive less support or attention because their death is ‘expected’.
Social Dying and death do not happen in isolation from the rest of life. We are influenced by how other people or groups respond to dying, death and loss.
Culture The meaning given to illness, dying and death in different cultures can influence how a person manages the experience. For example, culture can influence the family’s role, communication patterns or feelings of optimism or fatalism.
Spirituality Spirituality can influence death rituals and beliefs about the afterlife. For some people they provide a source of meaning. For other people they can create a sense of conflict or distress.
Previous experience with dying and death Some people have no experience with dying and can be fearful of what can occur. Others can be anxious about dying because of the negative experiences of someone they have known or heard about.
  1. Think about how you and your immediate family react and respond to dying and death.
    • What factors influenced your reactions when someone close to you died?
    • If you haven’t experienced the death of someone close to you, consider how you think it would make you feel.
  2. Discuss with others about their experiences or observations of:
    • Practices associated with dying and death in different cultures, age groups, and religions
    • Differences within the same cultural groups.
  3. How do you think your culture, age, spiritual beliefs, social networks and past experiences influence the way you will provide care?
  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Changing Patterns of Mortality in Australia, 1968-2017. 2018, ABS: Canberra.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia’s Health 2018. 2018, AIHW: Canberra.
  3. Murray, S.A., et al., Palliative care from diagnosis to death. BMJ, 2017. 356.
  4. Anderson, J.R., D. Biro, and P. Pettitt, Evolutionary thanatology. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 2018. 373(1754): p. 20170262.
  5. Wiener, L., et al., Cultural and religious considerations in pediatric palliative care. Palliative & Supportive Care, 2013. 11(1): p. 47-67.