Unfortunately there are not many participants, so while the data is interesting (even surprising) it is not very accurate or reliable yet. But either way it is interesting and informative. So read on, it was fun to make the survey and hopefully the data will be fun to read!
Demographic of respondents:
All of the respondents were from Australia. This did not surprise me too much, although I was hoping for some more diversity. Something else to be aware of is, as figure 1. bellow illustrates, a majority of respondents were 22 - 25 years old. Unfortunately this was to be expected as I had 'encouraged' my friends to complete the survey. Most of which are around this age, thus a big portion of respondents will be both my friends and a certain demographic.
|Fig 1: Average age of respondents|
The gender of respondents was also a bit bias. As we can see in figure 2. most respondents were female. Again, this is due to my friends, females were more willing to do my survey.
|Fig 2: Gender of respondents|
So that is the demographic of the respondents as shown by figure 1. and figure 2. About 60% were 22 - 25 and 60% were female while 100% were Australian. It should be noted that there was actually no correlation between age and gender. Although most are both female and 22 - 25, this does not mean the two are related. There was actually a good and relatively even scattering of age through both genders.
But it should be taken into account when looking over the data. At best we can say that this survey is representative of Australian women aged 22 - 25. So the results might not be representative of those outside this demographic. This is not to say that the results are inaccurate or wrong, they might represent society at large quite well. However we cannot know one way or the other without more diversity of respondents.
The most surprising result was that 55.6% of respondents attended more than five or more funerals. The reason I stopped the number at five was because I did not expect many people to go over it. Yet the majority of people have attended over five funerals. This number was not influenced by age or gender, people in the 18-22 bracket were as likely to have attended over 5 funerals as those in the 61+ group.
As figure 3. below shows burials were relatively uncommon, almost 89% of funerals were burials rather than cremations. This remained stable with the age of respondent and with the religion of the funeral. Religious funerals were no more or less likely to be cremation than non-religious funerals.
|Fig 3: Number of burials and cremations.|
Most funeral were religious, as figure 4. which is below demonstrates. This result did not appear to be influenced by demographic at all. But it did have a strong correlation with who carried the coffin. Family and/or friends carried the coffin on 55% of funerals while the funeral staff carried only 44% of the time. However, funeral staff were twice as likely to carry a coffin on a religious funeral while family and/or friends were twice as likely to carry on a non-religious funeral.
This is something I have also noted while working as an undertaker. That we (the funeral staff) carried on more religious funerals (mostly Catholic) than non-religious funerals. On these religious funerals the mourners were actually reluctant to carry in many cases. If the funeral staff needed help it would often require convincing someone to help. Or in other cases where mourners had said they would carry they then changed their minds and disappeared, especially at the cemetery.
On the other hand at non-religious funerals the mourners were more likely to want to carry the coffin. They were not just willing if asked, but actually asking to carry the coffin. Which the undertakers always appreciated.
|Fig 4: Number of religious and non-religious funerals.|
This survey also asked people to rate how upset they were our of ten at the most recent funeral they attended. In compiling the results I noticed something interesting, that this rating had a strong correlation with age of the respondent. As figure 5. shows the younger the respondent the more 'upset' they were at the funeral. While the older the respondent the less upset they were. The 18 - 21 age group had an average of eight while the 22- 25 and 61+ both had the same average of 5.
|Fig 5: Age of respondents and unhappiness at the funeral.|
There was no relation or correlation between gender and the level of upset. Both females and males gave about the same level of upset at a funeral. Males actually had a slightly higher average than women, but the difference was so minor. Basically gender played no part in how upset people rated themselves on a funeral. While women might 'display' more emotion it does not mean that men do not 'feel' the same level of emotions. This is something I have talked of briefly before, emotional displays at funerals, and how it is very age and socially/culturally dependent. And how emotions displayed is the not the same as emotions felt. It is also something I want to explore more in the future if I get time.
Something else which was worth noting is that 77% of funerals were 'two part funerals'. A two part funeral is when the coffin is taken to one place (such as a church), a service is performed, then the coffin is taken to another place for the final committal (such as a crematorium or cemetery). Only 22% of funerals were one part funerals, where the coffin does not go to a second place for the final committal. It is interesting because I know InvoCare and other funeral companies prefer the one part funeral as it has higher profit margins and is much easier for the staff.
The survey found that 66% of those who have attended a funeral had driven driven in a cortege as a mourner. While 22% have never driven in a cortege and only about 11% had driven in a cortege as a staff member (such as an undertaker, hire car driver or so on).
But one of the most interesting things was that 66.7% of those who attended a funeral did not know the name of the funeral company which conducted that funeral. Only 33.3% could name the funeral company on one of the funerals they attended. Age did have a correlation with this as everyone in the 61+ bracket could name a funeral company. On the other hand very few if anyone in the other age groups could do the same.
It is also interesting because funeral homes spend a lot of time and effort to have their name and branding visible on funerals. So perhaps this is not as effective as it is costly and time consuming. If only about 33% of people see and remember this information while the vast majority do not then perhaps we should question this. The funeral homes might be best to re-evaluate their branding and marketing on the funerals. Especially if doing so has a negative impact yet little to no positive impact. In followup research I will be asking if people can name the funeral home, but also if they noticed the funeral home name on the funeral and how they felt about it.
The average rating for a funeral was 8.2 out of 10 by respondents. Which is actually quite high, especially considering the negativity about the focus of a funeral. Most people thought funerals were focusing on the wrong thing (which is explained in detail below). Yet then the rating of funerals was quite high, mostly 8/10, with the lowest rating only being 5/10.
Funeral industry perceptions & attitudes:
It was also surprising that only 40% were interested in working in the funeral industry. The main reason for why people would join the industry was to start a 'traditional' funeral home. A few people stated that they were interested in owning and operating a "boutique old fashioned business" to provide high quality and traditional funerals. Another reason given was to "help people through difficult and emotional times". These people tended to state that they were "caring" and saw being an undertaker as a way to help people in need. Others stated that they were interested in the funeral industry itself, the history and traditions and as such wanted to be a part of it.
On the other hand a solid 60% said they did not want to work in the funeral industry. There were two notable reasons given. The first and by far the most common was that funeral industry is depressing or uncomfortable and entangled with 'death'. Many stated that they would "feel uncomfortable around morning" people, that the funeral and/or undertaker's job would be "depressing". To many the job is obviously sad, depressing and filled with death. As one respondent said; "I don't want to surround myself with death constantly and unnessarcy [sic]". Another significant, yet far less common, reason was due to the profiteering of the funeral industry. That they did not like the idea of funeral companies making money off grief and/or death and did not want to be part of this. As one person put it "I can't bear the idea of working for companies that capitalise on people's grief".
About 50% of people said attending a funeral had changed their views of funerals. The most interesting comments were those about the funeral's focus. Many did not like the funeral or the service because of what it focused on or what the funeral was about. One person said that "the funeral should be more about celebrating the life of the person... rather than focusing on the passing". This person also said that these kind of funerals are a "cheer waste of money, resources and particularly environmentally unfriendly". In an almost contradictory statement another person said that they did "not like the modern celebration of a life funeral" because it was a "bit like a party". They said that this reduced the "solemness of a unique occasion" and that people did not have a second chance to get the funeral right.
It quickly became clear that the role and goal of the funeral is not fixed or even very well defined. Some wanted it to be a place to celebrate the life of a person while others saw this as disrespectful and thought a funeral should be done in a solemn manner.
There was an interesting variety of answers when asked what people thought of when they heard "body". Many said things like "models" or "get physical" again indicating a bias from my friends being the majority to fill out the survey. However other (possibly more 'reliable') answers were things like "dead person", or "shell of a human or living creature which has had it's like ended by some cause". Perhaps the most interesting was one which said "bare, vulnerable, open".
While these results are interesting it is hard to draw any conclusions without more research. Well, other than the fact that a majority of the respondents are possibly bias.
I also asked what came to mind when they heard "undertaker". Many answers were exactly what I expected. There was a strong theme of caring, sensitivity and the fact that undertakers dealt with grief or dead bodies. One person actually said "carer, sensitive, understanding", while another wrote a "person that provides a service to take the dead on the final journey". This idea of dealing with the dead was actually quite strong, and most described it positively as part of helping others. While a few others described it as something negative, that undertakers reminded them of "dead bodies. An why would anyone want to do that as a job" or as someone else said "someone who does a job I could never do".
The term 'undertaker' conjured up both positive and negative impressions and images. On one hand the undertaker was a helpful and caring person who provided a respectable service. Yet at the same time it is a person who deals with the dead and the grieving, a difficult and bad job. While these two concepts are in many ways contradictory they are not mutually exclusive. It is quite possible for an undertaker to be both at once, or one then the other.
A few other descriptions of the undertaker were actually descriptive. One I quite like was "a medium built man with a beard and moustache who is dressed in a suit with top hat and tails. An approachable friendly individual who is stern and serious when discussing funerals. Performs the funeral with dignity and respect and gives the family peace of mind". This description is not accurate in most ways, but it was very detailed compared with the other statements and an interesting mix of physical description and emotional and behavioural description. No other statement mixed the physical and mental like this.
That is the result of the survey so far. I will leave this one active in the hope to get more respondents and possibly more reliable data. But I will be making and uploading a new survey in the near future.
If you want to complete this survey please do so! The link is below, it only takes a few minutes, and it is always helpful to get more replies.