In the United States, death is a topic largely avoided, and our culture emphasizes living as long as possible. From practicing wellness trends to aggressively following skin care regimens and plastic surgery, we do everything in our power to extend our youth.
Although we don’t openly admit that we’re going to die, the ways in which we choose to anticipate life’s circumstances may actually be more accepting of death than we realize.
Health insurance, car insurance, house insurance—all of it involves anticipating something life-threatening happening to you. “Life” insurance in particular anticipates death, and is based on securing beneficiaries with payouts in case you die.
All forms of insurance involve risk assessment: in other words, how likely you are to experience something bad happening to you. It could be your involvement in high-risk activities like smoking and extreme sports or how safe your neighborhood is; insurance is anticipating that something can happen to you or an extension of you.
In many of these cases, it can certainly be considered hyperbolic to expect that they are anticipating your death in terms of coverage costs, but it certainly takes your “likelihood of dying” into account when it comes to assessing premiums and how extensive your coverage should be.
During the age of COVID-19 in particular, purchasing life insurance has become an increasing priority, even amongst the millennial generation—a group who was once considered notoriously irresponsible when it came to savings accounts and life preparedness. A study conducted by industry trade groups LIMRA and Life Happens found that “45% percent of Millennials said they are more likely to buy life insurance due to COVID-19 than Baby Boomers (15%) or Gen X consumers (31%).” In addition to this, of the Millennials surveyed, two-thirds stated that they had dependents under age 18 living in their home—a group who would surely be facing significant challenges if the primary wage earner died.
When speaking about the death of an individual, it can be difficult and more impactful to talk about that one person. On the other hand, when the numbers of deaths grow, it can transcend from a personal connection to a statistical number. We thus become accustomed to death in a different capacity.
The flu, given its history, has found permanence in our current age as a statistic. Every year, we are politely reminded by health and government outlets to get our flu shots, citing an annual 12,000-52,000 deaths every year as a reason to do that. For many, this number has never compelled someone to get their vaccine, until it affects someone directly related to them.
In the age of COVID-19 however, more and more Americans have felt personally connected and compelled to do something about this pandemic because at this point in history, nearly everyone has been affected by a death because of the coronavirus. Until COVID-19 becomes less threatening to the people around you, it will take awhile to “fade” as a statistic
Casualties, deaths, they ironically lose their significance when it becomes a number and not a name. It’s easier for us to accept death when it is labeled as a number rather than an individual.
Much of the planning we do as humans takes our future selves into consideration, but some of that planning also considers the time beyond that. The actions we take today often acknowledge things beyond our existence.
For example, many consumers have been changing their lifestyle habits in response to the climate crisis - which is for some, a phenomenon that will happen after they die. Opting out of plastic materials and maintaining a zero-waste household may not seem like choices that reflect the anticipation of death. However, it is a responsibility to take care of something even after you pass.
Even policy change acknowledges a world beyond your life on Earth. Many propositions we vote for take years to experience the effects, and some of those changes will happen past our existence. And again, these changes also reflect a responsibility to take care of the world we leave behind—whether we are in it or not.
A lot of us have made lists of accomplishments we want to achieve before we die. For some, this could consist of a set of countries and landmarks we want to visit. For others, it may include financial goals like home ownership and paying for our kids’ college tuition.
The point of these lists is to feel fulfilled before you die, and often time to make an impact on others before that. Creating a bucket list places more emphasis on the meaning of life than death, but the point of making one is with the expectation that you will die. And this is what you want to “cross off” before that.
Our everyday choices certainly acknowledge that death does and will happen to us. However, in American culture, it often involves making the most of life while we are alive. And while that might not completely embrace death, it is certainly accepting of it.
In 2021 and beyond, death in general is becoming an increasingly common concern across generations. It is not only an anticipated fate for the elderly, but rather a more acceptable conclusion that something that can happen to any of us in the blink of an eye. In our readiness to adopt life insurance policies and prepare for a world beyond our existence, we are now more willing and ready to be prepared for death—regardless of whether it is expected or unexpected. This is continuing to grow the industry that is now called the “care economy” - and we’re excited for more and more solutions to be available for people to be able to plan their lives (and beyond) even better.