The rate of cremations in North America is expected to top 40% this year according to figures just released by the Cremation Association of North America (CANA). At its joint convention with the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), CANA projected that 40.62 percent of all deaths in the United States in 2010 would result in cremation.
Final 2009 statistics put the actual number of cremations in 2009 at 930,429, as the cremation rate reached 38.14 percent. The figures represent a 1.92 percentage point increase over the 36.22 percent reported in CANA’s final 2008 statistics and 4.04 percent higher than the 34.10 percent reported in 2007.
Based on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, CANA’s preliminary 2010 figures found that the number of deaths dipped 0.5 percent to 2.452 million from 2.473 million in 2009, while the number of cremations is expected to increase 7.3 percent to 998,547 in 2010 from 930,429 in 2009.
CANA noted that the annual growth rate of cremation over the last five years was 1.3 percent each year. The annual growth rate is the difference between the percentage of deaths cremated in 2009 and 2004, averaged over the five-year period. Between 2004 and 09, the percent increase in cremations was 6.9 percent.
With the continuing rise in cremation comes an increase in the number of crematories. Since 2007, when CANA reported 2,026 crematories in the United States, the figure has grown 8.8 percent in 2010, to 2,204 crematories. Despite the increase in the number of crematories, the average number of cremations per facility rose from 408 cases in 2007 to 453 cases in 2010.
To no one’s surprise, CANA predicts the numbers to increase steadily. In 2015, the association projects a cremation rate of 46.57 percent based on 2.4 million deaths and 1.3 million cremations, which is an increase of nearly 135,000 cremation cases, while the number of actual deaths decreases by 25,566. The number of non-cremations is expected to decrease about 11 percent – from the 1,459,475 estimated for 2010 to 1,299,661 in 2015.
“We did a slight change in methodology this year because it appears that the cremation trend is growing at a faster rate in certain states,” said Mark Matthews, CANA past president. “But as you get to higher numbers, it stops because once you get to the 60 or 70 percent range, it slows down because there are fewer people to convert.”
In the United States, the cremation rate has been rising while the death rate has been rather flat and in fact has gone down, which means more people are opting for cremation at the time of death.
Matthews noted that hidden under the data is the statistical proof that the cremation rate is growing at a faster percentage as a result of the economy. “In my business, some families are not able to afford the costs associated with earth burial in the cemetery,” he said. “They may even own cemetery property and have another family member buried there and still opt for cremation for financial reasons.”
Even ethnic families that would ordinarily bury their dead are opting for cremation due to economic reasons.
Four regions outpaced the national cremation average, according to CANA’s 2010 preliminary numbers:
- Pacific states (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington) led with a rate of 59.87%
- Mountain states (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico Utah and Wyoming) – 59.13%
- New England states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) – 44.45%
- South Atlantic states (Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia) – 36.38%
Falling well below the national average were the East North Central states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) at 37.59%, West North Central states (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota) at 37.11%, the Middle Atlantic states (New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania) at 36.06%, the West South Central states (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas) at 29.80% and the East South Central states (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee) at 20.60%.