More Americans, Coloradans choosing cremation
More than half of Americans now choose cremation over burial — an alltime high — and nearly three-fourths of Coloradans are projected to join a trend driven by lower costs, fading religious taboos and environmental considerations, according to a funeral industry report.
Nationally, 50.2 percent chose cremation last year. Colorado’s projected cremation rate of 73.6 percent in 2018 marks a rise from 70.3 percent in 2015 and ranks the state sixth in the U.S. At the same time, the state’s burial rate is projected to drop from 21 percent in 2015 to 19 percent next year.
Cremation rate projections for 2018 range from Nevada’s high of 78.8 percent to Mississippi’s low of 24.1 percent. While only 16 states had cremation rates over 50 percent in 2010, the report predicts that 44 states will pass that threshold in the next eight years.
Overall, the trend reflects a variety of reasons behind the growing popularity of cremation, but high on the list is convenience, said Chuck Bowman, a Colorado funeral director and treasurer of the National Funeral Directors Association, which commissioned the study. Statistical projections were compiled by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Families have spread across the country so much, we’re such a mobile society, that part of it is that it creates a convenience for them,” said Bowman. “We can have a memorial service in six weeks, six months or six years, for that matter. We don’t have to rush back to the home town to have a funeral.”
Cremations outpace burials
A funeral industry report says more half of Americans picked cremation over burial, compared with nearly three-quarters of Coloradans. Place Colorado Mississippi Nevada United States Burials 2010 28.5% 84.6% 16.1% 53.3%
Mobility contributes to the higher rate of cremation in Colorado, where the population boom includes many transplants. But Bowman notes environmental impact as another key factor within the state.
“Some want to scatter in the Colorado mountains, and that adds to it,” he said. “We have a lot of people moving here from California who also are very environmentally conscious. Environment is a huge factor.” 2015 21.4% 77.3% 20.0% 45.2% 2018 18.6% 74.0% 18.1% 40.6% 2020 17.1% 71.9% 17.2% 37.8% 2025 2030 13.8% 9.2% 66.5% 61.2% 14.5% 9.7% 30.3% 22.7%
The report noted that the decline in traditional funerals tracks with the rise in Americans who no longer identify with any religion. The number of people over age 40 who feel a religious component is “very important” in the funeral of a loved one has dropped by 10 percentage points in the last five years to 39.5 percent.
Cremation also typically costs less than funerals that include burial — sometimes about one-third of the expense, although Cremations 2010 2015 63.3% 70.3% 13.8% 20.9% 70.0% 75.6% 40.4% 47.9% 2018 73.6% 24.1% 78.8% 53.3% that gap narrows when factoring in additional services that can accompany either option. Cremation accounts for only 7.2 percent of industry revenue.
The shifting consumer preference has prompted the funeral service industry to “reinvent the wheel,” Bowman said, as it responds to a trend that is expected to continue for decades. By 2035, the cremation rate is projected to be close to 80 percent, according to the report. Nearly 30 percent of funeral 2020 75.0% 26.3% 79.7% 56.2% 2025 78.3% 31.6% 82.3% 63.8% 2030 82.9% 37.0% 87.2% 71.3% homes operate their own crematories and an additional 9 percent plan to add them within five years.
“Funeral service has seen it coming, we try to prepare for it, we understand the thought process around it by families,” Bowman said. “Now, we’re trying to guide and educate families in the right way to do it.”