Cremation in the US: Exploring the Reasons Behind its Rising Popularity

Cremation in the US: Exploring the Reasons Behind its Rising Popularity

The past two decades have witnessed an upsurge in cremation rates across the United States. This growing trend is projected to continue as Americans explore more diverse methods of bidding farewell to their loved ones.

As a trend gaining momentum, the rise in US cremations has been impressive. Data from the National Funeral Directors Association reveals that the cremation rate skyrocketed from 25% in 2000 to over 60% in 2020. Forecasts predict this trend will persist, with cremation rates hitting a staggering 78% by 2040.

Numerous reasons are behind this surge in cremations. No single reason dominates; however, certain factors like cost, flexibility, shifting attitudes, religious beliefs, and opportunities for ash scattering memorials contribute significantly.

Economic Reasons for Cremation

First, the economic appeal of cremation is undeniable. On average, cremation costs around $6,000, less expensive than the traditional burial's average price of $7,000. The potential for cost-saving makes cremation a more appealing choice for numerous families.

More Flexibility with Cremation

Cremation also offers greater flexibility concerning memorialization and disposition. Families can opt to keep their loved one's ashes in an urn, bury them in a cemetery, or scatter them at a cherished location. This flexibility gives families greater control over their loved one's final resting place.

Relaxed Attitudes About Cremation

Over recent years, attitudes toward death and funerals have evolved. Many now perceive cremation as a more environmentally friendly option since it eliminates the need for embalming fluids and caskets. Some also regard cremation as a way to distinguish the physical body from the soul or spirit.

On the religious front, many faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, now permit cremation. This shift has made cremation a more accepted choice among individuals of various religious backgrounds.

Ash Scattering Memorials

Finally, the option for ash scattering memorials adds another layer to the appeal of cremation. Eternal Alaska, for instance, offers ash scattering memorials in various locations such as Alaska, Hawaii, the Rocky Mountains, and even New York City. The options are indeed limitless, with some families choosing decorative urns for ashes display at home, while others prefer scattering the ashes in a meaningful location.

Changing the Funeral Industry

The surge in cremation has profoundly impacted the funeral industry. Traditional funeral services demand has declined as more families opt for cremation. Consequently, many funeral homes have had to close their doors, leading to industry consolidation.

In response to this industry shift, funeral homes are now offering more cremation-related services like memorialization and cremation jewelry. Most funeral homes now provide cremation as an alternative to traditional funeral services.

Some States Aren’t Changing as Fast

But cremation isn’t growing as fast in some states as others. There could be many reasons for this but while Nevada and Oregon lead the way with an 80% cremation rate, Alabama and Mississippi rank last with a cremation rate still around 30%.

States With the lowest cremation rates:

  1. Utah: 40-50%
  2. Louisiana: 37.1%
  3. Kentucky: 35.1%
  4. Alabama: 32.6%
  5. Mississippi: 27.9%

But, even the states with the lower numbers are continuing to rise. Given the aforementioned reasons, it's not surprising that cremation's popularity in the United States continues to grow. Factors such as cost savings, flexibility, shifting attitudes, religious beliefs, and the option for unique ash scattering memorials have all played a role in this growth. Moreover, the funeral industry has adjusted to this trend, offering more cremation-related services.

As cremation becomes an increasingly common practice, families need to evaluate their options thoroughly. Making informed decisions about a loved one's final disposition is more important than ever. This trend is a key aspect of the evolving landscape of the funeral industry, shaping both how we say goodbye and how we remember our loved ones.

Stan Reese is founder and President of Eternal Alaska

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