TV Soaps switch the nation on to mortality

19 September 2017

  • 24% of Brits say TV schedule has prompted them to discuss death, dying and loss
  • Death of Emmerdale’s vicar Ashley Thomas most likely to prompt a chat about death
  • 22% of those surveyed said a medical drama or documentary encouraged them to speak up

Co-op Funeralcare has revealed that more than half of Brits (54%) admit to avoiding difficult conversations, with almost a third (31%) struggling to talk about death.*

Despite the majority of people avoiding these tough conversations – including telling a loved one that someone has died, or speaking to a loved one about a life-threatening illness – research commissioned by the UK’s largest funeral director, has found that TV schedules play an important role in prompting the nation to tackle these discussions head on.

Almost a quarter of the population (24%) say they’ve been prompted to talk about the prospect of a loved one’s death or a serious health condition with those close to them having watched real life or fictional events on TV shows, from soap operas to medical dramas and fly-on-the-wall documentaries.

Emmerdale’s vicar Ashley Thomas and his two year battle with dementia and subsequent on-screen death, was most likely to have got audiences talking about these sensitive subjects in their own living rooms. Other celebrity deaths making an impact included Ronnie and Roxie Mitchell (Eastenders) and Jack and Vera Duckworth (Coronation Street).

More than one in five of those questioned (22%) were impelled to talk about a serious health condition or the prospect of death by watching a medical documentary or drama and those aged 25-34 were most likely to be influenced these genres.

David Collingwood, Head of Operations for Co-op Funeralcare, says:

“Many of us are avoiding emotive, but important discussions about issues such as death or funeral wishes with friends and family, yet often these conversations can be started by a common interest such as a popular TV soap or drama. You might have spent timing thinking about them, but have you talked about them? We want to break the taboo surrounding death by encouraging people to have a conversation about their wishes for later life now, before it is too late.”

Top 10 soap deaths prompting a conversation about dying and death:
1. Ashley Thomas, Emmerdale
2. Ronnie & Roxie Mitchell, Eastenders
3. Pat Butcher, Eastenders
4. Jack Duckworth, Coronation Street
5. Vera Duckworth, Coronation Street
6. Jade Allbright, Hollyoaks
7. Pauline Fowler, Eastenders
8. Mark Fowler, Eastenders
9. Lou Beale, Eastenders
10. Madge Bishop, Neighbours

The most feared ‘difficult’ conversations are:
1. Telling a loved one that someone has died (33%)
2. Telling a loved one about a life threatening illness (31%)
3. Consoling a grieving loved one after someone has died (18%)
4. Ending a relationship (18%)
5. Talking to children about a break up (14%)
6. Talking to a loved one about going into a care/nursing home (12%)

Co-op is encouraging the nation to start a conversation with friends and family to approach these topics, plan ahead and to make their funeral wishes known. To help people approach these discussions, Co-op Funeralcare has compiled an online guide covering top tips on where to begin. For more information visit:


Notes to editors:

*Research conducted by Opinion Matters on behalf of Co-op Funeralcare with 2,000 UK adults in June 2017.

Media Contacts

Alex Wilson
Press and Media Relations Manager
Mobile: 07540 641368

About Co-op:

The Co-op, one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives, with interests across food, funerals, insurance, electrical and legal services, has a clear purpose of championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities. Owned by millions of UK consumers, The Co-op operates a total of 3,750 outlets, with more than 70,000 colleagues and an annual turnover of approximately £10 billion.

About Co-op Funeralcare:

Co-op Funeralcare conducts almost 100,000 funerals annually across over 1,000 funeral homes. Combined with its leading legal services business, the Co-op is also a national provider of later life products and services ranging from funeral plans, through to wills and probate.