Exploring death anxiety among elderly people: A literature review and empirical investigation

M.A. Missler, M.S. Stroebe, Lilian Geurtsen, Mirjam Mastenbroek, Sara Chmoun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


Given the growing number of elderly persons in society and concerns about their health and well-being, the aim was to review the available literature on their death anxiety, and to explore features of this experience among a small sample of older men and women in care facilities. In both the review and empirical parts of this study, components and correlates of death anxiety were investigated. The review revealed limited research focus on death anxiety among the elderly, particularly among those in institutions, but suggested both components and correlates for inclusion in our empirical study. Results showed that, among our elderly participants in an assisted living facility (N=49; age range: 60-96 years), there were higher levels of fear for others and of the dying process than for fear of the unknown. Notably, among the correlates identified, fear for significant others was associated with poor physical health; fear of the dying process was related to low self-esteem, little purpose in life, and poor mental well-being. Gender differences in death anxiety were found: women showed greater fear for the death of loved ones and for the consequences of their own death on these loved ones, than did men. These patterns are discussed in the light of concerns about the welfare of elderly persons; scientific implications are also considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-379
JournalOmega: Journal of Death and Dying
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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