A fifth of Brits were more upset by a celebrity death than that of their own grandparents, new research finds.

HALF of Brits have felt truly devastated by the loss of a celebrity that they admired but didn’t personally know, research reveals.

A nationwide study delved into the psychological effect that the death of a well-known figure can have on the public.

 One in five of us have felt more upset at a celebrity death than that of our grandparents

One in five of us have felt more upset at a celebrity death than that of our grandparentsCredit: Alamy

It found that the celebrity death that affected the nation most was Princess Diana's, in Paris in 1997, with a quarter of people saying they had been left grief-stricken when she passed away.

A further 19 per cent of the 1,500 people polled said the passing of comic Robin Williams in 2014 was the most upsetting while 12 per cent said David Bowie’s death in 2016 affected them the most.

Other well-known personalities whose death had a real impact on the nation included singer Amy Winehouse in 2011, George Michael and US superstar Whitney Houston.

Overall, more than one in ten (12 per cent) felt they truly KNEW a star through their creative work, while nine per cent said the death of their hero had felt like they’d lost a family member, and seven per cent even claimed they had felt closer to the star than their own friends and family.

A fifth said they were more upset about the death of a celebrity than they were about the death of their own grandparents.


The study, by SunLife, found that almost half of the respondents (46 per cent) said that the star they’d grown up with and admired had seemed immortal, and as a result their death had felt very traumatic.

Little surprise then, perhaps, that after the death of their idol, more than two thirds (67 per cent) of Brits said they felt genuine sadness or grief and 45 per cent confessed to crying real tears.

Shockingly, one in seven (13 per cent) claimed they went off their food and one in 14 (seven per cent) admitted they even took the day off work to grieve.

One in 10 of those surveyed (11 per cent) felt compelled to go to a public place of grieving - such as Kensington Palace after the death of Diana - while 14 per cent joined an online community to help them deal with their grief.

More than a third (37 per cent) said they felt it was tragic when a talented persons’ life was cut short when they had more to give, while almost a third (30 per cent) said their idol’s work had inspired them.

Almost three in 10 (27 per cent) felt like they had lost a part of their childhood when their idol died and more than a fifth (22 per cent) confessed that a celeb’s death had made them think about their own mortality.

And more than half (55 per cent) of those quizzed remember exactly where they were when they heard the news of a celeb death.


Psychologist Donna Dawson, commented on the study: “When we mourn a celebrity’s death, we are also mourning the death of a part of ourselves: that part which we have invested in the celebrity.

“The investment could be a particular time period in our lives with its associated memories and relationships, or the desire to see ourselves rich and famous and living a creative lifestyle. Whatever it is, the death signifies a boundary line reached.

 Princess Diana's untimely passing hit the nation the hardest

Princess Diana's untimely passing hit the nation the hardestCredit: Getty - Contributor

“Social media provides the illusion that we knew the celebrity intimately, which allows us to mourn them as if they had been close family. And while we are mourning, we are given a chance to consider our own mortality.

“However, more positive things can follow a celebrity’s death: it can help us to take stock, to ask ourselves if we have achieved what we want in life, and if we are doing enough with our own talents and abilities.

“The boundary line can become a new beginning, and the celebrity death, though much mourned, can serve as both a warning and as an inspiration for the future.”

Ian Atkinson, marketing director at SunLife said: “Our research shows that many of us still find it difficult to talk about the death of a loved one. Yet other times it can seem like the whole nation grieves at the death of a much-loved celebrity. Perhaps it’s the shared experience that makes it easier to express our feelings.”

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To mark the study SunLife have produced a guide to the 20 most famous celeb resting places.

The study also revealed that while half of us admit finding it hard to talk about death, 64 per cent said they find it easier to express their emotions about someone they never knew personally.

But a further 78 per cent admitted it was all too easy to get caught up in a form of “mass hysteria” when someone famous dies – with 82 per cent claiming social media and the internet makes us feel more “connected” to celebrities than ever before.

Celebrity deaths which affected Brits the most

  1. Princess Diana – 25 per cent
  2. Robin Williams – 19 per cent (pictured)
  3. David Bowie – 12 per cent
  4. Amy Winehouse – 11 per cent
  5. George Michael – ten per cent
  6. Whitney Houston – ten per cent
  7. Freddy Mercury – nine per cent
  8. Paul Walker – seven per cent
  9. Alan Rickman – seven per cent
  10. John Lennon – seven per cent
  11. Rik Mayall – six per cent
  12. Heath Ledger – six per cent
  13. Stephen Hawkings – six per cent
  14. Steve Irwin – six per cent
  15. Muhammed Ali – six per cent 7
  16. Elvis Presley – five per cent
  17. Prince – five per cent
  18. Nelson Mandela – four per cent
  19. Jill Dando – four per cent
  20. Carrie Fisher – three per cent
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