Data Shows COVID-19 Impact on Funeral Service is Significant
NFDA 2022 Cremation and Burial Report Shows Nearly Half of Members Now Offer Online Cremation Burial Arrangements with the Cremation Rate Across the Nation Expected to Exceed 50% by 2035
Brookfield, Wis.– The long-lasting repercussions of the COVID-19 are only just now being fully understood as data from the last two years becomes more widely accessible. Data from the 2022 Cremation and Burial Report, released by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), shows that one of the most notably impacted is the funeral service profession.
COVID-19-related fatalities in the U.S. increased the total number of deaths by 543,000 in 2021; the pandemic is expected to cause an additional 289,000 deaths in 2022. The most significant impacts of the pandemic on funeral homes and services can be seen in the following areas:
- Technology’s Pivotal Role in Memorial Services: A significant spike in demand was seen when 74.4% of funeral homes reported that the number of families they served increased, especially in large metropolitan areas. While some funeral homes already offered livestreaming services, since the onset of the pandemic, more than half of NFDA-member funeral homes began doing so to help families safely gather while adhering to restrictions on public gatherings. Funeral homes are predicted to continue to expand this and other offerings – such as virtual funerals and an increased array of options to meet the needs of families with diverse cultural and faith traditions – in the future.
- Increase in Online Arrangements: 40% of NFDA funeral homes now offer online cremation arrangements; 28.2% plan to offer the ability to make cremation arrangements online within the next five years. NFDA’s 2022 Consumer Awareness & Preferences Report noted that while many more consumers are venturing online to plan a funeral or memorial service, more than half (53.7%) noted that even though they had a good experience, they still needed the assistance of a funeral director. Nearly 10% indicated they did not get the personalized service they would have received had they worked with a funeral director and just over 1% said planning online was impersonal and not a good experience for their family.
- Crematory Ownership Up: With the annual number of cremations in the U.S. expected to rise from 1.91 million in 2022 to 2.26 million by 2030, and to 2.94 million by 2040, there has, in turn, been growth in the number of funeral homes operating their own crematories. Approximately 39% of funeral homes in the country now operate their own crematories and another 12% plan to open their own within the next five years. The highest concentration of crematories in the U.S. are in the Southeast, Great Lakes, and MidAtlantic regions where there tends to be a higher population density and a higher percentage of people 65 or older.
- Labor Shortage: The employment rate for funeral service workers is expected to grow by 4% from 2020 to 2030, thus many firms anticipate hiring eligible workers to be a future challenge.
As cremation becomes more socially accepted among the public, another factor contributing to it outnumbering traditional burials in the U.S. is the rise in the number of Americans who do not identify with a religion. Other factors at play include lower costs associated with cremation services, changing consumer preferences, weakening prohibitions, and environmental concerns.
In 2021, NFDA member funeral homes reported 41% of consumers chose a direct cremation, 35% chose a cremation with memorial service, and 24% chose a casketed adult funeral with viewing and cremation. NFDA projects the cremation rate in all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. will exceed 50% by 2035.
“Even though it’s been a couple years since the onset of the pandemic, we are just now seeing the data that reflects the true impact and influence it has had on the way people memorialize and grieve their loved ones,” said NFDA President Randy Anderson, CFSP, COO. “As funeral directors, we are always here to assist and guide families in our communities to create an experience that they prefer, whether it’s blending familiar rituals with contemporary preferences, like cremation, or planning a tradition funeral and memorial service, to help them grieve and heal in the best way possible for them.”
Throughout the pandemic years, funeral directors proved their ability time and time again to swiftly adapt as they worked tirelessly to serve their communities by finding new ways to help families meaningfully pay tribute to their loved ones. Whether families are looking to organize a traditional religious funeral or a more customized memorial, it can be difficult to know where to start. Answering questions at all stages of planning, Remembering A Life (www.RememberingALife.com), NFDA’s family outreach and education website, offers guidance on where to begin the planning process, the kinds of decisions that families can make and the numerous options available to make a tribute both personal and meaningful. The site is designed to help people curious about their own affairs or those seeking answers following the death of a loved one.
As the trusted leader and worldwide resource for the funeral service profession, NFDA lists Remembering A Life among their top resources providing helpful information about planning a meaningful service, as well as resources to help people understand their own and others’ grief and loss.
Funeral service professionals should look for further coverage of the 2022 Cremation and Burial Report in upcoming issues of The Director magazine and Memorial Business Journal.
NFDA members may download a complimentary copy of the 2022 Cremation & Burial Report via the NFDA Store, www.nfda.org/store (click the “Downloadable Products” category). Nonmembers may purchase the report for $175.
About the NFDA 2022 Cremation and Burial Report:
The statistical projections contained in the 2022 NFDA Cremation and Burial Report were compiled by the University ofWisconsin-Madison Applied Population Laboratory Department of Community and EnvironmentalSociology. State-level deaths by “method of disposition” data were collected from state vital statistics departments or similar state regulatory agencies for the years 2002-2020.Other findings presented in the report are from proprietary NFDA research studies, suchas the 2022 NFDA Consumer Awareness & Preferences Study.
About National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA):
NFDA is the world’s leading and largest funeral service association, serving more than 20,000 individual members who represent nearly 11,000 funeral homes in the United States and 49 countries around the world. NFDA is the trusted leader, beacon for ethics and the strongest advocate for the profession. NFDA is the association of choice because it offers funeral professionals comprehensive educational resources, tools to manage successful businesses, guidance to become pillars in their communities and the expertise to foster future generations of funeral professionals. NFDA is headquartered in Brookfield, Wis., and has an office in Washington, D.C. For more information, please contact 800-228-6332 or visit https://www.nfda.org/.