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Are Americans Avoiding the 'Death Talk?'

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- We prepare so meticulously for our lives, but not so well for our deaths, according to data from a national survey published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Only about one of every four Americans have completed an “advanced directive” on how they’d like to be treated at the end of life, the survey found. The top reason many of the people surveyed had not signed an advanced directive was because they didn't even know what the document is or why it exists.

Skipping the directive, and the talk with your family, can have huge financial implications; health care costs are greatest during the final years of life, and use of advance directives are associated with lower Medicare spending and fewer in-hospital deaths.

Who does this best? Advance directives were more frequent among women, whites, respondents who had a college degree or postgraduate training, were married, or had a chronic disease requiring a regular source of care. For Black and Hispanic respondents, advance directives were less frequent across all educational groups.

This data indicates racial and educational disparities in advance directive completion and highlights the need for education about their role in facilitating end-of-life decisions.

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