OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT) – Americans are dramatically shifting their funeral choices, and funeral homes say they are adapting to the changes. More than half of the country’s residents are choosing cremations over traditional casket burials, according to a 2020 report from the National Funeral Directors Association.
“There has been an increase in people becoming aware of their options,” said David Bell, of Glenn Funeral Home in Owensboro. The report estimates that 56% of funerals in 2020 involved cremations, up 8.1% from 2015 when the rate of cremation was around 47.9%, and up 15.6% from 2010 when the rate was around 40.4%.
The burial rate in 2020 was around 37.5%, falling 7.7% from 2015 — when the national cremation rate (47.9%) surpassed the casketed burial rate (45.2%) for the first time in U.S. history. In 2010, the burial rate was around 53.3%, while the cremation rate hovered at 40.4%. The report also projected that cremations will jump to 69.5% by 2030 and 78.4% by 2040, compared with an expected 24.8% and 16% choosing traditional burials by the same years, respectively.
Funeral directors at both Haley-McGinnis Funeral Home and Glenn Funeral Home in Owensboro, Kentucky, said they’re seeing more people choosing cremation. “My colleagues and friends out west, they’re seeing 70-80% cremation, and that will trickle and come to us at some point,” said Nathan Morris of Haley-McGinnis. “Across all locations, we are just under 50% of families choosing cremation,” he added, referring to sites owned by Morris Family Homes, including Haley-McGinnis.
With more American families scattered across the country—and around the world—many have loosened their connection to any one place, and have become increasingly exposed to new traditions, according to the Cremation Association of North America.
Morris said some people are choosing cremations to allow out-of-town family and friends more time to pay their respects in person. “People, nowadays, are all over the country, and cremation is oftentimes selected because of people being dispersed everywhere,” Morris said.
According to the Cremation Association, Nevada tops the list of states with the highest percentage of cremations at 80.7% as of 2019, with Oregon, Washington, Maine, and New Hampshire rounding out the top five. Mississippi (27.9%) has the lowest percentage, following by Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Utah.
No matter what people choose, Bell said, it’s important for funeral homes to adapt to the changes and help smooth the path for loved ones to remember those who have passed. “It is important for the grief process that there is an event that establishes the significance that someone has passed away,” he said. “That is often a key foundation to grief that is an effective and proper grief process.”