The impact of online death literacy education on psychology students to have better end-of-life conversations

Kitty Vivekananda, Carrie Parratt, Mignon Tucker, Rosemary Leonard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Objective: The role of psychologists is relatively invisible at end-of-life (EOL) and lack of training has been cited as one important reason for this. Contrasting the medicalisation of death, a new term Death Literacy references communities regaining knowledge and familiarity with the dying process. The aim of this study is to assess the impact on postgraduate students participating in a voluntary Online Death Literacy Education Module (ODELM). Methods: Using a mixed methods, quasi-experimental, repeated measure design, the current research paper measures the self-reported Death Literacy of 86 post-graduate psychology students. Results: The results found that psychology students' overall Death Literacy increased significantly, in addition, to the specific dimensions of knowledge and comfort in having EOL conversations. Further, exposure to Death Literacy training significantly increased participants' interest in EOL concerns and enhanced their perceptions of its relevance to the role of psychologists. Qualitative findings support a high level of engagement and interest in this sensitive and emotionally challenging topic for students, particularly in having EOL conversations with children. Discussion: This study shows that online delivery is an effective way to deliver Death Literacy content, particularly for fifth-year psychology students, who benefited most from gaining professional development hours towards provisional psychologist registration. Case studies and videos stimulated reflections on both the personal and professional dimensions of EOL supporting increased Death Literacy of participants. Conclusion: The strong interest and positive engagement in EOL expressed by emerging psychologists augurs well for their increased involvement in EOL care across the lifespan.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-422
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian Psychologist
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • death literacy
  • online education
  • psychology students

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