When it comes to cremation, it’s not always about cost. For some families, there are a lot of reasons why they would choose cremation over traditional burials.
And as the cremation rate keeps climbing, it’s important for funeral professionals to understand all the reasons people are choosing cremation.
Cremation: It’s Not a Trend, It’s the Future
In the 1950s, only around 4% of Americans were cremated. Burial was the predominant means of disposition. Fast forward to today, and more Americans are getting cremated (48.5%) as opposed to buried (45.4%), according to the NFDA. And cremation is still growing.
In 2017, the cremation rate is projected to be more than 50%. By 2030, it’s expected to be more than 70%. For states like Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and New Hampshire, the cremation rate is already well above 70%.
In a press release on the 2016 NFDA Cremation and Burial Report, NFDA President Bob Arrington said that “To us and the families we serve, cremation isn’t just a ‘trend.’”
Why the Rise in Cremation Rates?
It’s more than just money. While cremation costs only a third to a half of what traditional funerals cost, families also are choosing cremation for a number of other reasons. Here are a few big ones.
1. The Rise of the “Nones”
A lot of our funeral traditions stem from religion — especially when it comes to burial. But America is shifting toward secularism as more Americans are claiming to have no affiliation with any particular faith or religious group.
The Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study has found that these unaffiliated, or “nones,” now make up around 23% of American adults. In fact, they make up the second-largest group in North America, overtaking Catholics, mainline protestants, and others.
As this group of unaffiliated grows, they are choosing new traditions when it comes to dying. And for many, that means choosing cremation over traditional burial.
2. Religion Changes
Another reason for choosing cremation is that religion has gotten more relaxed about the rules. While historically many religions — like Catholicism or Judaism — have opposed cremation, they have changed their stance in recent years. Some church-owned cemeteries have even started offering new columbariums to store the ashes of the deceased.
3. Concerns about the Environment
Concerns about the environment and land availability also have driven people to cremation.
The Funeral Consumers Alliance found that the second most popular reason people in America choose cremation is that it preserves land. Others want to limit their carbon footprint after death, and they see cremation as a greener or more eco-friendly option than burial.
There are even movements to push for an even greener cremation, as seen in the rise of alkaline hydrolysis, which involves the process of dissolving a body in a saltwater solution.
Another reason cremation is so popular is that it allows families more time to plan a memorial service. Cremation takes away any time constraints that a burial might have. That extra time allows for a no-rush approach to planning a service.
5. Families Are All Over
In the past, burials were simple because a family could easily gather at their local community church. And after the burial, they could still visit their loved one in the cemetery. But today, families aren’t living as close together as they used to. More families are spread out across the country.
With cremation, families aren’t tied down to a specific cemetery or location. They can scatter the ashes or bring the urn containing their loved one with them when they move.
One of the biggest reasons a family chooses cremation is because of the near endless customization it brings. Families can choose to remember their loved one in a way that’s fitting to them.
It goes hand in hand with the rise of personalization — another top trend, according to the NFDA. Families can have custom-made urns, incorporate their loved one into an ocean reef, use a loved one’s cremated remains to make their favorite vinyl record or even send their ashes into space. (Check out this article to see other ways families are using cremated ashes to uniquely remember a loved one.)
For what reasons have you seen families choosing cremation? Share with us in the comments below!