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31% of French people believe in life after death, according to a study

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As part of its latest study, Ifop analyzed the French’s relationship with death, with their wishes for their funeral and their beliefs.

The human species has always wondered what happens once life stops. This irreversible state has given rise to crazy theories throughout the ages, intriguing intellectuals, from philosophers to biologists. But today, in 2023, what is the French relationship with death? At the request of the FLASHS agency and the site Plaquedeces.frIfop carried out a major study to better understand their beliefs, their preferences regarding funerals and even their anxiety about loss.

The eternal question of life after death

As this study shows, over the last 50 years, belief in life after death among the French has decreased, from 37% to 31%. On the other hand, “young people are more inclined to believe in life after death than older people”. In fact, 41% of those under 35 adhere to it compared to 27% of those over 35. This view of things may have a link with religion, because “69% of practicing believers consider this prospect”compared to 38% for simple believers and 10% for atheists.

Furthermore, this study also shows that young people believe more in eternal life (37% of those under 35 compared to 23% of those aged 65 and over), as well as in reincarnation (43% of those under 35). Likewise, this age category strongly believes in the existence of heaven and hell (48%), although religious believers dominate (80%).

“The younger generations are those who today believe the most in the concepts of paradise, hell or reincarnation. Not necessarily because of their adherence to a religion, but also because they are, as other recent studies have shown, more sensitive to phenomena not explained by science., specifies Léa Paolacci, creative strategist in the Ifop press release. Indeed, according to a previous study carried out by the institute, 28% of French people believe in reincarnation.

The deep anguish of losing a loved one

“Although the vast majority of them are anxious about death, French people are much more anxious about the prospect of losing a loved one than about their own death”, explains Léa Paolacci. According to this study, 49% of French people are anxious about their own death, compared to 88% for that of a loved one. Of course, losing someone dear to our heart is a real ordeal. They particularly fear the loss of a child (83%), a spouse (76%) but also a close friend (70%).

How do the French plan their funerals?

Before dying, many French people think about their funeral. In 2023, 40% of them want to have a religious ceremony, compared to 31% for a civil ceremony. Others prefer not to have a ceremony at all (29%). On the other hand, cremation is becoming more and more popular among the French, because 50% would like to use it.

Respondents were also asked whether they would want their eternal resting place, if there were no legal constraints. Thus, 63% would like their ashes to be scattered in nature or in a symbolic place, while 42% would like their funeral takes place anywhere other than in a cemetery – which is not permitted. Others would like a ceremony in an unusual location (28%) or keep the urn with the ashes at home (19%). Even more bizarre, 11% of respondents would like to send their ashes into space!

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