Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Death Anxiety and Self-Esteem of Filipino Youths and Older Adults

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Death Anxiety and Self-Esteem of Filipino Youths and Older Adults

Article excerpt

Death is the only certainty in life yet, one of the most uncertain phenomena known to man, specifically as to how and when it will come. The unanswered question of what comes next after a person dies adds to the mystery surrounding death. These uncertainties have incited fear among many individuals, referred to as death anxiety.

Bodner, Shrira, Bergman, Cohen-Fridel, and Grossman (2014) described death anxiety as an emotional state of terror that people possess as a response to the knowledge of their mortality. Nyatanga and de Vocht (2006) defined death anxiety as an unpleasant emotion that sprouts from different origins caused by contemplation of death. Nyatanga and de Vocht (2006) believe that perceiving one's own death, as well as the death of other people, causes death anxiety. There are reasons why an individual experiences anxiety upon the realization of the unavoidability of death. Nyatanga and de Vocht (2006) suggest that one of the main reasons for death anxiety is that death is both inevitable and unpredictable. Another is that despite developments in human knowledge and sciences, there has been no clear way of stopping death or controlling it (Nyatanga & de Vocht, 2006). They further added that when individuals fail to understand certain phenomena, they construct their own views of it, and mostly their view of death is negative or destructive.

Death anxiety is a common phenomenon experienced by many (Lo, Hales, Zimmerman, Gagliese, Rydall, Radin, 2011), with the common notion that older adults would be more susceptible to death anxiety compared to younger individuals since they are relatively closer to death (Cicirelli, 2006; Erikson, 1950; McCoy, Pyszczynski, Solomon & Greenberg, 2000; McMordie & Kumar, 1984; Nyatanga & De Vocht, 2006; Wagner & Lorion, 1984). In Erikson's (1950) last stage of development, integrity vs. despair, a person leading a meaningful life would resolve the crisis of this stage; however, those who do not resolve it will view their lives as wasted or wrongly lived, and would have a high fear of death (Tomer, 1992). This finding is supported by Cicirelli (2006) who stated that the fear of death in older adults is influenced by health, purpose in life, and the discrepancy between desired and expected time to live. However, there are studies that dispute this common notion and have found low levels of death anxiety for older adults (Amjad, 2014; Cicirelli, 1998; 2003; DePaola, Griffin, Young, & Neimeyer, 2003; Hoffman & Strauss, 1985; Kastenbaum, 2000; Maxfield, Solomon, Pyszczynski, & Greenberg, 2010; Russac, Gatliff, Reece, & Spottswood, 2007; Stevens, Cooper, & Thomas, 1980; Thorson, Powell, & Samuel, 1998). Generally, these studies found low levels of death anxiety among older adults because of death acceptance; their experiences and growth had apparently contributed to the development of various coping strategies in response to their death anxiety.

In line with the initial notion, youths are expected to have lower levels of death anxiety since they are relatively far away from death. However, studies that show adolescents and young adults scoring high in measures of death anxiety are consistent in death anxiety research (Erikson, 1950; Keller, Sherry, & Piotrowski, 1984; Koocher, O'Malley, Foster & Gogan, 1976; Rusaac, Gatliff, Reece & Spottswood, 2007; Sterling and Van Horn, 1989). Erikson's (1950) stage of identity vs. role confusion argued that adolescents are tasked to form an identity or suffer role diffusion. Sterling and Van Horn (1989) found that young adults with a strong sense of personal identity have a lower level of death anxiety. They explained that as an adolescent is struggling to form an identity, many uncertainties, including death, are noticed and examined by the young adult. This is supported by Noppe and Noppe (1997) who stated that youth is a period of contemplation about death, a stage wherein they are exposed to death of other people. …

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