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Study: Majority Of US Adults Make No End-Of-Life Plans

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A majority of Americans do not deal with end-of-life issues, with only about a quarter of US adults having completed a living will. JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP/Getty Images)

A majority of Americans do not deal with end-of-life issues, with only about a quarter of US adults having completed a living will. JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP/Getty Images)

CBS Charlotte (con't)

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Chapel Hill, N.C. (CBS CHARLOTTE) – A majority of Americans do not deal with end-of-life issues, with only about a quarter of US adults having completed a living will.

A University of North Carolina study of nearly 8,000 Americans found that only 26 percent of adults had completed an advance directive, also known as a living will. Women, whites, married couples and those with a college degree of some sort were the most likely to have crafted a will for their surviving relatives.

Researchers advised that nursing home, hospice and other end-of-life (EOL) decisions should be made in advance of one’s own debilitated health.

“EOL issues need to come to the forefront of planning efforts,” Dr. Jaya K. Rao, formerly an associate professor from the University of North Carolina, stated in a press release. “Hopefully, these findings will contribute to the current national conversations about EOL care.”

Survey respondents younger than 54 were most likely to report not having made out an advance directive, but nearly one-third (31.7 percent) of those over the age of 55 had also not made out a will.

The most commonly cited reason for not having an advance directive: “I don’t know what advance directives are,” and second on the list of reasons was “my family knows my wishes.”

People with chronic disease or a regular source of care were also most likely to have an advance directive.

Past studies have shown that advance directives are associated with lower levels of Medicare spending and a lower likelihood of dying in a hospital. The prevalence of chronic disease in Americans over the age of 44, combined with an aging US population of Baby Boomers is expected to strain the health care system in coming years.

Minority groups were found to be least likely to have made out a will for their surviving family members.

“For black and Hispanic respondents, advance directives were less frequent across all educational groups, said Dr. Rao. “These data indicate racial and educational disparities in advance directive completion and highlight the need for education about their role in facilitating [end-of-life] decisions.”

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