Amidst rapid population aging, South Korea enacted the Well-dying Act, late among advanced countries, but public opinion on the act is not still clear. Against this background, this study aims to: 1) investigate factors affecting elderly individuals’ attitude toward life-sustaining treatment, and 2) examine whether attitude toward life-sustaining treatment is related to their perceived life satisfaction.
Data from the 2020 Survey of Living Conditions and Welfare Needs of Korean Older Persons were used. There were 9,916 participants (3,971 males; 5,945 females). We used multivariable-adjusted Poisson regression models with robust variance to examine the association between perceived life satisfaction and attitude toward life-sustaining treatment and calculate prevalence ratios (PR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI).
After adjusting potential confounders, the probabilities that the elderly who were dissatisfied with their current life would favor life-sustaining treatment were 1.52 times (95% CI: 1.15–1.64) and 1.28 times (95% CI: 1.09–1.51) higher for men and women, respectively, than the elderly who were satisfied. In addition, attitudes in favor of life-sustaining treatment were observed prominently among the elderly with long schooling years or high household income, when they were dissatisfied with their life.
Our results suggested that for the elderly, life satisfaction is an important factor influencing how they exercise their autonomy and rights regarding dying well and receiving life-sustaining treatment. It is necessary to introduce interventions that would enhance the life satisfaction of the elderly and terminally ill patients and enable them to make their own decisions according to the values of life.