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Learning modules

Activity 1: Factors influencing death & dying

In the 20th century Australia, like many western nations, witnessed dramatic changes in terms of:

  • how people were cared for when they were dying
  • what they died from
  • where they died.

Some factors influencing death and dying in Australia today include:

  • improved sanitation and hygiene
  • industrialisation
  • scientific advances in the diagnosis and treatment of disease
  • immunisation programs.

Today, people are living longer and are more likely to die from chronic diseases. For example, the most common causes of death in Australia in recent years were cardiovascular disease and cancer. Other important changes are reflected in data indicating that deaths due to dementia and Alzheimer's disease have moved from the seventh leading cause in 1998 to the second leading cause in 2014. [1]

Trends in the management of death and dying in western societies 
Some factors that have affected death and dying in western societies include:

  • the institutionalisation of death and dying i.e. more people dying in hospitals or long-term care settings
  • the professionalisation of many aspects of death and dying, such as the certification of death by the medical profession and the disposal of bodies by the funeral industry
  • the increasing use of medical technology to prolong life.

Thinking points


1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2014). Leading Causes of Death. Causes of Death, Australia, 2014.  Retrieved September 5, 2016, from