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NFDA: Cremation Rate At An All-Time High

by | Aug 2, 2017 | Funeral Profession

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The NFDA recently released their 2017 Cremation and Burial Report, and the message is clear. As more and more families opt for cremation, it’s looking like cremation will be the future of the funeral profession.

Cremation Rates Rise

These numbers shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, they reflect what the NFDA has been talking about for the past few years — cremation is overtaking traditional burials. Here’s what the NFDA found.

Cremation rates are at an all-time high. In 2015, the cremation rate sat at 48.5% and burial at 45.4%. In 2016 — for the second year in a row — cremation overtook burials, with the cremation rate at 50.2% while the burial rate dropped down to 43.5%.

The NFDA expects that this is only the beginning. In just 20 years, they project cremation rates to sit at 78.8%. They also predict that in the next 8 years the cremation rate will exceed 50% in 44 states. In those same 8 years, burials will drop to just 30.3%.

Trends Impacting Cremation Rates

Why do more families choose cremation? There’s no single answer. Several factors are behind the surge in cremation rates. In the report, the NFDA lists two main factors — religion and age.

  • Religion: As the number of non-religious people grows, they are more likely to choose a nontraditional funeral service such as cremation.
  • Age: Those 80 and older are more likely to opt for burial. But Baby Boomers (which will soon make up a growing number of the funeral service marketplace) are choosing cremation at a higher rate than burial.

Age and religion are just two factors. There are, in fact, a lot of different reasons people are choosing cremation. They include:

  • Time: Cremation offers more time for families to gather (especially if they live in different states) and plan a memorial service.
  • Cost: Cremation typically costs less than a traditional burial.
  • Environmental Impact: Some people choose cremation to lessen the impact they’ll leave on the environment.
  • Flexibility: Cremation allows for flexibility and customization of services. From unique ash scattering ceremonies to unique memorial products, people are choosing cremation because of the personalization options available.

Many Families Unaware of Options Available

As the cremation rate grows, it’s important for families to understand the options available to them. But the opposite remains true.

The NFDA found that most families are unaware of their options when it comes to cremation. The report found that less than half of Americans associate cremation with a memorial service. And only 11.8% associated cremation with a viewing of the body. In 2015, the NFDA found that only 37% of cremations had a memorial service.

In a statement released by the NFDA, President Ashley Cozine said “This shift has prompted many funeral homes to expand their service offerings to meet the emerging needs of consumers who prefer cremation… Our role as a funeral director is to help make sure families understand all of the available options and commemorate the life of their loved one in a meaningful way regardless of whether they choose burial or cremation.”

The biggest takeaway is that funeral homes need to help families create new rituals when it comes to cremation. We all know the important role a funeral has in the healing process. With just cremation, many families lose that important healing ritual. Funeral directors need to spread awareness and show families they have memorial service options available when it comes to cremation.

Embracing Cremation

If your funeral home wants to remain competitive in the next 20 years, it will need to embrace cremation. Below are some ideas for how:

If you’re an NFDA member, click here to download your copy of the 2017 Cremation and Burial report.


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