To provide insight into the prevalence of persistent death wishes without being severely ill among Dutch older persons aged 75 and above; to describe the characteristics and circumstances of this group; to improve knowledge on the nature of their death wishes.
In 2019 we conducted a large survey among a representative sample of 32,477 Dutch citizens aged 55 and above from the TNS-NIPObase. The questionnaire was completed by 21,294 respondents in April 2019 (response rate 65.6%). This article comprises a subanalysis of the respondents aged 75 and above.
Of all 3,141 respondents aged 75 and above, 56 were identified as having a persistent death wish and no severe illness (PDW-NSI). The weighted percentage representing the Dutch population indicates PDW-NSI among 2.07% of all older persons aged 75 and above in the Netherlands. Respondents with PDW-NSI had a lower level of education, were of lower social class and lived in highly urbanized areas more often. Important aspects enhancing the death wish were dependence on others, worrying, physical or mental deterioration, health problems and loneliness. The death wish was subject to change and the intensity varied over time.
Of older persons aged 75 and above with PDW-NSI, a considerable part stays out of sight of healthcare professionals because they do not communicate about their death wish. This may challenge timely support. Carefully questioning the meaning and nature of the death wish is essential to understand the background and underlying needs of the persons concerned.
Conflict of interest and financial support: This study was financially supported by a grant from ZonMw (project number: 643001001). ICMJE forms provided by the authors are available online along with the full text of this article.