Fearing the Reaper: Gender Differences in Death Anxiety Explained by Religious Doubts, Femininity and Fear of Crime
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High levels of death anxiety have been shown to positively correlate with mental distress, diminished psychological well-being and psychological disorders. Research on death anxiety has consistently found that females report higher levels of death anxiety than males, and constructs related to religiosity and sex role socialization have been shown to partially explain gender differences in death anxiety. Nonetheless, other factors which may explain the relationship between gender and death anxiety remain largely unexplored. In this study, 409 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at a large public university completed an 86-item online survey that assessed their level of death anxiety, religious doubts, femininity, and fear of crime. This study first sought to assess whether gender differences in death anxiety existed in the sample. As hypothesized, and in line with previous research, a significant gender effect was found, with females reporting significantly higher levels of death anxiety than males. The results suggest that religious doubts and fear of crime were positively correlated with death anxiety, and younger participants, Greek-affiliated participants, and those who identified as racial and ethnic minorities also reported higher levels of death anxiety. As expected, fear of crime was found to fully mediate the relationship between gender and death anxiety. Also consistent with the research hypotheses, the results suggest that religious doubts did not moderate the relationship between gender and death anxiety. The hypothesis that femininity would moderate the relationship between gender and death anxiety was not supported. Theoretical and clinical implications, as well as directions for future research are discussed.
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