Journal article

Prevalence of advance care directives in the community: a telephone survey of three Australian states

20 Feb 2019


Background: The community prevalence of advance care directives (ACDs) is low despite known benefits of advance care planning for patients, families and health professionals.

Aim: To determine the community prevalence of instructional and appointing ACDs in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland and factors associated with completion of these documents.

Methods: A telephone survey of adults living in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland (n=1175) about completion of instructional ACDs (making their own decisions about future health care) and appointing ACDs (appointing another to decide). Quota sampling occurred based on population size by state, gender and age, with oversampling in smaller jurisdictions (Victoria and Queensland).

Results: Overall response rate was 33%. Six per cent of respondents reported completing an instructional ACD while 12% reported completing an appointing ACD. Female gender, higher educational level, personal experience of a major health scare and being widowed were significant predictors of completing an instructional ACD. Older age, higher educational level and being widowed were significant predictors of completing an appointing ACD.

Conclusions: Despite long-standing efforts to increase advance care planning, community prevalence of ACDs remains low, particularly for instructional ACDs. This study found some different predictors for instructional ACDs compared with appointing ACDs, and also a potential role for experiential factors in triggering uptake. These findings suggest supplementing general community awareness campaigns with more nuanced and targeted efforts to improve ACD completion.

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