NHS Doctor Surgeon
File photo: According to new research the experience of dying is 'happier' than first thought. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

As we all know, part of the human experience is a general feeling of dread at our own inevitable demise.

And despite this feeling of doom causing us sizeable angst during our lives, new research suggests that the emotions we go through in our final moments on earth are actually more positive than you might think.

Researcher Kurt Gray from the University of North Carolina studied the final blog posts of terminally ill patients noting many were filled with love, social connection, and meaning.

"When we imagine our emotions as we approach death, we think mostly of sadness and terror," said Gray.

"But it turns out, dying is less sad and terrifying — and happier — than you think."

Professor Gray and his colleagues published the research in the journal Psychological Science earlier this month.

The study was devised when the research team came across the last words penned by death-row inmates in Texas.

After being surprised by how upbeat the statements were, Gray studied more of the last statements made by death row inmates and terminally ill patients with cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

These posts and 'last words' were contrasted with a selection of faux blog posts and 'last words' that were written by volunteers who imaged they were in the same situations.

They discovered that people closer to death tended to use more positive words in their writing.

The team used a computer-based algorithm to assess the actual and imagined blog posts for words that described negative and positive emotions, such as "fear," "terror," "anxiety," "happiness," and "love."

The paper suggests that we focus disproportionately on the negative emotions caused by dying, without considering the broader context of everyday life.

"Humans are incredibly adaptive – both physically and emotionally—and we go about our daily lives whether we're dying or not," said Professor Gray.

"In our imagination, dying is lonely and meaningless, but the final blog posts of terminally ill patients and the last words of death row inmates are filled with love, social connection, and meaning."

"Currently, the medical system is geared toward avoiding death—an avoidance that is often motivated by views of death as terrible and tragic," the researchers wrote.

"This focus is understandable given cultural narratives of death's negativity, but our results suggest that death is more positive than people expect: Meeting the grim reaper may not be as grim as it seems."