Living Funerals: Have most Singaporeans heard about it and how many are open to having one?

Samuel TanAPAC Data Journalist / B2B Content Manager
May 16, 2024, 3:28 PM GMT+0

Early this year, the story of Michelle Ng who organised her own “living funeral” prior to succumbing to cancer – a final “intimate and joyful” party with her loved ones at home – was reported on multiple news sites.

According to Charity group HCA Hospice which first shared her last hurrah, the practice of celebrating a person’s life while they can still connect with family and friends remains uncommon, although attitudes towards the once taboo topic of funerals and wakes are gradually changing.

But just how many Singaporeans have heard about living funerals – and how many would be keen to arrange one?

How familiar are Singaporeans with the concept of a living funeral?

Latest YouGov Surveys research has found that almost three in four (74%) Singapore residents have heard of living funerals – 38% are fully aware of what it entails, while 36% have a rough idea – while a quarter (26%) are completely unfamiliar.

Demographically, awareness of living funerals in Singapore is highest among Millennials (71%) – seven in ten say they know about the practice. Most Gen Z (61%) and Gen X (54%) are also aware, although just under half of Baby Boomers (48%) have heard of the term.

Residents from high-income households – with an average (net) monthly income of SGD 10,000 or more – are significantly more likely to be familiar with (42%) or have heard about (69%) living funerals. In comparison, among lower to middle-income households, general awareness of living funerals stands at around 58-60% and familiarity between 27-30%.

Awareness of living funerals is also noticeably higher among Singaporeans who have a university degree (67%) compared those who do not (55%).

When asked to describe what a living funeral means to them, Singaporeans most commonly shared words like “celebration”, “death”, “life”, “family”, “loved” and “terminal (illness)”.

How open are Singaporeans with organising a living funeral for themselves?

But when asked how they would personally feel about having a living funeral, only a quarter (25%) of Singaporeans say they are comfortable with the idea.

Close to two-fifths (38%) say they would be uncomfortable with such a celebration of their life with loved ones prior to their passing, while over a third (36%) are undecided or have no strong feelings about the matter.

Across major ethnic groups in the country, Indian Singaporeans were most divided about living funerals: having the highest proportion who are comfortable (31%) as well as uncomfortable (53%) with the idea. Meanwhile, ethnically Malay Singaporeans were least likely to be keen on having a living funeral (15%) overall.

Generation-wise, Millennials are again the most likely to be comfortable the idea of a living funeral (29%), ahead of Gen Z and Gen X (both 26%). In contrast, Baby Boomers are much less likely to be keen, with over half (54%) express discomfort with having such a celebration.

While living funerals are about celebrating a person’s life while they are lucid and present, they can be placed in the broader context of end-of-life arrangements.

These also include preparations such as: drafting wills and designating beneficiaries, to making a lasting power of attorney (LPA) and taking out insurance / endowment policies.

But how common is it for Singaporeans to have made such arrangements? We explore this in our next article.

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Methodology: YouGov Surveys: Serviced provides quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. This study was conducted online in April 2024, with a national sample of 1,031 Singapore residents, using a questionnaire designed by YouGov. Data figures have been weighted by age, gender, and ethnicity to be representative of all adults in Singapore (18 years or older) and reflect the latest Singapore Department of Statistics (DOS) estimates. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.

Cover image by pondsaksit