Aug 10, 2019

More Americans want to be cremated

Data: Cremation Association of North America; Note: Data includes instances of alkaline hydrolysis. Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

More Americans are choosing to be cremated after death rather than having a traditional burial, according to data from the Cremation Association of North America (CANA).

Between the lines: Most people choose cremation over burial because it's cheaper, but others simply "don’t see the value in these old traditions. They’re interested in creating new traditions," Barbara Kemmis, executive director of CANA, told Axios.

By the numbers: In 2004, less than 1/3 of the deceased were cremated in the U.S. In 2016, half of American deaths resulted in cremation. CANA projects the share will rise to 65% in 2028, at which point growth is expected to slow, according to their trend analysis of individual states.

Areas with high affiliation to Christianity as well as lower income and lesser educated populations tend to prefer traditional burials to cremations, according to CANA's research. For example, "bible belt" states such as Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky and Louisiana have some of the lowest cremation rates.

  • Meanwhile, cremation is more popular in areas of the country with more immigrants, other religious groups and higher income people.

New preferences have rattled undertakers, who make significantly more money off of burials than cremations and are now facing urn and casket competition from Amazon and Walmart, the Economist reports ($).

  • Relatives and friends have been making more outlandish requests for their loved ones' funerals or "life celebrations." They've asked for pizza and margaritas, karaoke and tiki huts and even fireworks to shoot their loved one's ashes into the sky, according to an undertaker who spoke to the Economist.

The bottom line: The popularity of traditional, more expensive embalming, caskets and funerals is dying along with the silent generation and baby boomers.

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Deep Dive: The new art of dying

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Modern burials and death practices are changing how we die and where our bodies go after we die.

Why it matters: Today, the funeral industry is worth $17 billion ($). Businesses are innovating on traditional practices, and more people are taking control of how they wish to die and be buried — in unconventional, surprising and even extraterrestrial ways.

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How death cafes are de-stigmatizing death

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

An ongoing movement of “death cafes” — open salons for discussing death, with no set agenda — is spreading across America with the goal of ending the taboo around talking about dying.

The big picture: The number of Americans 65 and older is on course to double from 46 million to over 98 million by 2060. Aided by a growing culture of sharing and openness in society, the future of these aging boomers is spurring conversations about aging and dying.

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How the health care system fails dying patients

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Medical culture has often framed death as a binary decision: preserve a patient's life at all costs, or give up and accept what happens. That framing does a disservice to the fear, uncertainty and philosophical questions about life and death that patients and their families experience.

The big picture: American health care, from medical education all the way through to the payment system, generally does not encourage doctors to listen to dying patients' needs or priorities.

Go deeperArrowAug 10, 2019