Most New Zealanders support euthanasia for people suffering from a painful incurable illness and who request it, according to an Auckland University study.

The research, published in the NZ Medical Journal, also found demographic and personality differences in people's opinions on the issue.

Researchers looked at the responses of 15,822 participants in a 2014-15 survey on New Zealand attitudes and values, which included an item on euthanasia.

The participants were asked: "Suppose a person has a painful incurable disease. Do you think that doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient's life if the patient requests it?"


Around two-thirds (66 per cent) were in favour, 22 per cent were neutral or unsure, and 12 per cent were opposed.

The study says people who were non-religious, liberal, younger, employed, non-parents and living in rural areas were more supportive.

Those Pacific or Asian ethnicity, religious, and of low household income and high deprivation were less in favour.

"Unexpectedly, those with higher education and higher social status were significantly less supportive of euthanasia," the study said.

"Furthermore, age had a negative relationship with support for euthanasia, with older people generally being less supportive and this effect tending to plateau among the elderly."

Study author Carol Lee said that, in regard to personality, those high in extroversion, conscientiousness and neuroticism were more supportive of euthanasia.

Those high on agreeableness and honesty-humility were more opposed.