Cremation rates have been increasing in recent years. That’s nothing new. In 2015, the NFDA Cremation and Burial report projected cremation to surpass burials in terms of services for the first time in history. Since then, the popularity of cremation has continued to grow year after year.
There are many reasons for this growth. Costs, religious beliefs, desire for alternate services and memorials; the list goes on.
But, one big contributing factor that no one could prepare for is Covid-19.
With safer at home orders in place, restrictions on public gathering sizes and millions of Americans out of work, cremation rates have seen a spike.
Recently NFDA released their 2020 Cremation and Burial Report. As expected, cremation rates are increasing with no signs of slowing down. According to the report, “more than half of funeral directors have experienced increased cremation rates due to the coronavirus pandemic”.
Looking at the numbers and the impact of the pandemic so far, the following projections could very likely increase. As of right now, the 2020 report predicts that the burial rate will be 37.5% (which is down nearly 8 percent from 2015’s results). Comparably, the cremation rate is projected to reach as high as 56% of services. This is up 8.1% from 2015.
As you can see, the numbers were already trending in favor of cremation, but expect the pandemic to increase those even more. By 2025, NFDA projects a cremation rate around 63.3% (which would be 15% growth over just 10 years).
Right now there’s a lot of uncertainty. As some states begin reopening, we are seeing large spikes in Covid-19 cases. This could lead to more shutdowns again.
It is estimated that an additional 200,000 deaths will occur in the United States this year due to Covid-19. Which in turn means a lot more families needing to plan a service.
In their 2020 report, NFDA notes that 50% of NFDA-member funeral homes have had families postpone services until it’s safe for everyone to gather.
Now how this is being done depends on the family. For some, that’s meant an immediate burial and then waiting for a memorial service at a later date. For many others though, a direct cremation lets the family have their loved one’s remains returned faster so the urn can be present at the memorial service.
Why are cremation rates increasing so much right now? Right now there’s no concrete evidence, so the following is just speculation.
The first, and most likely reason is cost. In a past blog we did on cremation numbers, we looked at income and the cost of a traditional service. Click here if you want to read it.
In that article we noted something interesting. The typical American worker earns around $44,500 a year, and an average traditional funeral costs roughly 19.7% of that ordinary American’s annual salary. With millions of Americans out of work and relying on stimulus checks to help cover their expenses, a traditional service may not be feasible right now. Especially with uncertainty around when the economy will be back to full strength. Or when they will be able to gather with everyone to celebrate and say goodbye.
Another thing to consider is emergency funds. Research from the Federal Reserve has shown that 44% of Americans would struggle to afford an unexpected $400 emergency expense.
Finally, it’s also important to consider the number of deaths occurring and caring for the remains. Depending on your area, your service volume could be growing significantly. Looking at data from some of our clients, those in hard hit areas like New York and New Jersey have been working around the clock. In fact, one client had seen their average monthly service volume increase 8 times their normal rates. With as many as 200,000 deaths expected, cremation allows the family to get the remains returned to them faster so they can do some sort of memorial.
As we look forward, expect to see cremation rates continue to increase. A recent study by Choice Memorial offers some insight into cremation and family preferences.
After surveying 1500 people, one of the things their study asked was what does the family plan to do with the ashes. Only 36% said have their family keep them in an urn or keepsake. The other 64% have other wishes which could be why more cremations are happening right now if families can’t gather for a service.
According to the survey results, 10% plan to plant the ashes with a tree, 14% chose alternative options like turning into memorial jewelry or turned into a glass creation for instance. The largest amount of respondents (40%) said they plan to spread them in a special place.
As more and more people see the different memorial options cremation provides, you’ll likely see numbers continue to climb. Therefore, you need to be prepared to meet this demand.
In 2018, we launched A Simple Cremation, which is a turn-key business solution that will allow those who become providers to offer affordable cremation services in their community. After all, simplicity, affordability, and flexibility have much to do with the rise in cremation in the first place. So why not give people precisely what they are looking for?
If you want to learn more about this business solution and how to best prepare for the increasing cremation rate, reach out to us today!
Tommy holds a Communications degree from Laurentian University and an Integrated Marketing Communications Graduate Certificate from St. Lawrence College. He is a Content Marketing Specialist at FrontRunner and focuses on producing engaging content that funeral homes can use to connect with families. In addition, Tommy crafts SEO content for clients and specializes in helping the general public connect with the death care industry as a whole.