The rate at which Americans are choosing to be cremated rather than buried after their death has been rising for many years. In 2016, that rate reached an all-time high.
Fifty percent of Americans chose cremation in 2016, according to a new report by the National Funeral Directors Association. The rate of cremation in the U.S. has risen steadily over the years, going from just five percent in the 1970s to 40 percent in 2010.
The U.S. cremation rate is still much lower than countries like Japan and Switzerland, where 100 percent and 85.4 percent of those countries’ populations, respectively, are cremated. But NFDA predicts that by 2035, nearly 80 percent of Americans will be cremated after their death.
The national cremation rate exceeded the burial rate for the first time in 2015. Right now, burials fall behind cremations by just a few percentage points. But NFDA expects the gap to increase starkly over the next few years.
The association credits a number of factors in the dramatic rise in cremations. Kurt L. Soffe, a fourth-generation, Utah-based funeral director and a member of NFDA, said he started noticing a shift toward cremation in the 1990s and attributes the trend largely to what he calls American “individualism.”
“As I would meet with families who were arranging for the burial services of their loved ones many of those family members would say, ‘This (i.e. burial) is fine for Mom/Dad, but I just want to be cremated,’” Soffe said in an email to HuffPost.
Post-death practices also became “institutionalized” and increasingly impersonal throughout the end of the 20th century, Soffe said, as Americans started dying and being memorialized outside the home.