Correlates of perceived death competence: What role does meaning-in-life and quality-of-life play?
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Objective Understanding factors that are associated with more adaptive death attitudes and competencies can inspire future health-promoting palliative care strategies and inform approaches to training and development for health professionals. The potential importance of meaning, purpose, quality, and values in life for promoting adaptive death attitudes has been highlighted, but there is limited research in this area, particularly in relation to death competence. The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to develop an understanding of demographic and life-related factors associated with perceived death competence, such as meaning in life and quality of life. Method During the course enrollment period of a Massive-Online-Open-Course about death and dying, 277 participants completed questionnaires on death competence, meaning in life, quality of life, and sociodemographic background. Result Findings indicated that greater presence of meaning in life, quality of life, age, death experience, and carer experience were each statistically significant unique predictors of death competence scores. Life-related variables were more strongly associated with death competence than demographic variables. Bereavement experience and experience caring for the dying was associated with greater death competence, but there were no differences on death competence between health professionals and the general community. Above all other factors, the presence of meaning in life was the strongest predictor of higher perceived competence in coping with death. Significance of results The findings demonstrate important interconnections between our attitudes about life and death. Knowledge of factors associated with poorer death competence may help identify those at risk of greater distress when facing death, and might prove useful additions to bereavement risk assessments. Understanding factors associated with greater death competence in health professionals and volunteers may help predict or prevent burnout and compassion fatigue, and help identify who would benefit from additional training and support. Future longitudinal studies including both health professionals and the general community are needed to determine the effect adaptive attitudes toward meaning in life can potentially have on bolstering subsequent adaptive coping and competence regarding death and dying.
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