Cremations are on the Rise. Which Countries are Leaders ?

Image of a globe (Article by Pulvis Art Urns about cremation rate by countries)

The NFDA (National Funeral Directors Association) Cremation and Burial Report estimates that by 2035, the cremation rate in the U.S. will reach almost 77%. This rise is not a surprise as cremation becomes even more and more popular mainly because of the lower costs and environmental impact, compared to the traditional funeral.

Popularity of Cremation Globally

The popularity of cremation varies around the world. Due to the high impact of religion on burial practices, many countries with majorities of certain religions that support cremation have much higher rates.

Many religions permit cremation for their followers. Examples of these include Buddhism, Jain, and Hinduism. In places that have high percentages of followers of these religions, cremation has a higher popularity. However, many religions oppose cremation, such as Islam, Orthodox Judaism, and the Greek Orthodox Church. Consequently, cremation does not happen at the same rates in nations with large groups from these religions as in other places.

Cremation Rates Within Countries

Within each country, the cremation rates can also vary. In countries, such as Russia and the United States, cremation happens more frequently in cities than in rural places.Therefore, even a country with a low rate of cremation may have pockets where the practice occurs more frequently.

Countries that reported the lowest rates of cremation in 2019 include Greece, Ghana, Mongolia, Lithuania, and Russia. Greece's rate was below 1%, 0.63%, while the fifth lowest, Russia, had a cremation rate of 15.21% of deaths.

Cremation Rates in 2023

As of 2023, cremation rates worldwide have continued to rise steadily. With evolving cultural attitudes and logistical considerations, cremation has become an increasingly preferred choice for disposition. Factors such as population density, religious beliefs, environmental concerns, and available infrastructure influence the prevalence of cremation in different regions. While some areas still predominantly favor traditional burial practices, many countries are witnessing a notable shift towards cremation as a more practical and sustainable option. However, specific statistics on global cremation rates for 2023 may vary by country and region, reflecting diverse cultural norms and societal preferences.

However, this alternative to the traditional funeral grows with different rates around the world. Find out which countries are leaders by cremation rate.

 

ASIA

 

Japan

As Buddhism spread through the eastern part of Asia during the first two millennia AD, so did the ritual of cremating bodies. Death was connected with the risk of diseases and people believed the ritual disposal of bodies was supposed to be cleansing.

Although religion was the reason why cremation spread so fast across Asia, its staying power, especially in Japan, has been for two practical reasons: full bodies took up space faster than ashes (Japan is a country without space to spare) and cremation is actually more sanitary than ground-burial.

Pulvis Art Urns - Eternity Handmade memorail for ashes

Over the last century, and mainly after the World War Two traditions in the country of the rising sun, like many places in the world, have changed dramatically. Cremation, which was previously seen as a Buddhist practice, has now become a nation-wide tradition, reaching the astonishing 99.97% in 2018.

 

South Korea

Since the 2000s, there has been a change in how South Koreans look to death, with more preferring cremation, according to a new research released by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

The new research showed that more and more Koreans are also interested in eco-friendly ways to dispose cremains. Currently, popular options in South Korea include planting cremated remains, storing cremains in high quality cremation urns for ashes and other. 

The report predicts that South Korean’s cremation rate will reach almost 92% by 2023.

 As the name hints “Abstract” is an extraordinary memorial urn for ashesnce and perfection, just like the memories of a loved one.

Cremation urns for ashes by Pulvis Art Urns  -  Abstract

 

China

Cremation was introduced almost 30 years ago in China as an efficient way to save valuable land for farming that could help feed the country's rising population.

Data by Cremation society of Great Britain, confirmed partially by the Chinese government shows that the cremation rate was 50% in 2013, compared with 33 per cent in 1995. Today it is believed to be more than 56%, growing with almost a percent annually. 

Nowadays, more Chinese have accepted the concept of cremation, and they are beginning to accept other alternatives ecological ways of burial and storing the ashes of their loved ones at home. As ceramic is notably popular in China, Japan and most of Asia, ceramic urns for ashes are becoming more and more preferred.

 

India

Cremating the dead was an ancient ritual and practice in India. It was observed among Buddhists and Hindus from well before the start of the Common Era, and was later adopted by Sikhs. Although not all Hindus practised cremation (most lower-caste Hindus were buried), burning the dead historically helped demarcate these religious communities from Muslims and Christians, for whom burial was the norm, and from India’s Parsi community who exposed their dead on Towers of Silence.

Nowadays, India’s cremation rate is one of the highest in the world, reaching almost 75%.

Cremation urns for ashes by Pulvis Art Urns - The Passage

Cremation urns for ashes by Pulvis Art Urns - The Passage 

 

EUROPE

 

United Kingdom

Today cremation is the most popular type of ritual in the United Kingdom. By 2010, 72% of funerals in the UK were cremations. However, this has not always been the case.

Although humans have practised cremation for thousands of years, Christian religion and the influence of the church in the Kingdom stopped it happening here for many decades. This was because the church rejected it, believing it to be pagan and a practice, which would make the restoration of the body impossible.

A huge change happened in 1884 when an 80 year old man, Dr William Price, burnt the body of a five day old child that he had fathered with his housekeeper on a funeral pyre at the back of his house.  Although he was arrested, the judge ruled that cremation was legal as long as a nuisance was not caused. Many things changed since then and since cremation was stated legal in 1902, the number of cremations grew rapidly up to 77% today.

Cremation urns for ashes by Pulvis Art Urns - Various Memorials

Cremation urns for ashes by Pulvis Art Urns

Of the 1,500 adults surveyed online, 55% prefer cremation when they die, in comparison with 15% of those who would go for burial. Of those in favour of cremation, 32% want their ashes to be scattered, and 67% prefer their ashes to be kept at home in cremation urn for ashes.

 

Netherlands     

Nowadays, over 65% of the people in the Netherland choose to be cremated after death. In this country after the body is cremated, the crematorium is obliged to keep the cremains in urn storage for a month. This gives the relatives of the deceased some time to decide if they want to scatter the ashes, keep them in a cremation urn, or even split them in several keepsake urns for ashes.

A cremation in the Netherlands costs between 3000 and 9000 €. The choice for cremation is increasing considerably in the Netherlands as well as the offered types of cremation urns for as

The first cremation ritual in the country was done in 1914. Since then the cremation rate has risen to nearly 66% in 2019.

 

France

In France one third of people who die are cremated, despite the lack of crematoria across the country. Even though cremation was not so popular in France back in the days, people are starting to prefer it to the costly burials. The cost of this type of services is still a huge problem that is even criticized by the national administrative court. In France, the legal limit for cremation after a death is just six days. This adds extra pressure on crematoria and families around the country.

Despite the unfair conditions for cremation and its high price (the cost for cremation and disposition of ashes is approximately $5,000, including 10-year niche rental) it is rising surprisingly fast and in cities like Paris this service reaches almost 45%. In France, keeping ashes at home in a cremation urn or a keepsake is forbidden and it is only allowed in columbarium, however many people tend to ignore the law when it comes to their relatives.

Cremation keepsake urns for ashes by Pulvis Art Urns - Stone keepsake

Cremation keepsake urns for ashes by Pulvis Art Urns - Stone keepsake

 

Russia

Until the 1917 Revolution, burial was the only practice, with very rare exceptions in w of armed conflicts or war. Russian beliefs and tradition have great respect for traditional burial and after USSR law allowed cremation, it took some time for the first crematoria to open around the country.  St. Petersburg crematoria was the first to open in Russia, but it didn’t operated for a long time due to a “lack of firewood”.

Followed by the Moscow crematorium in 1927, the cremation process quickly grew popular and today there are more than 20 crematoriums in the country. Cremation rate reaches up to 30-40% and in some cities like St. Petersburg around 70% despite the negative attitude towards cremation of the Orthodox Church.

 THe Christ - Religious urn for ashes by Pulvis

Cremation urn for ashes by Pulvis Art Urns - "The Christ" full size urn

 

NORTH AMERICA

 

USA

The annual NFDA Cremation and Burial Report raised the curtain to some interesting data indicating that the cremation practices in the USA are on the rise. According to the 2018 report, the cremation rate is 53.5 percent, while 40.5 percent of Americans opted for burial, down from 45.4 percent in 2015.

The report predicts that by 2035, the cremation rate in the northern area of the country will exceed a rate greater than 80 percent, as several southern states that selects the burial as a preferable practice, will increase up to 50 percent. Overall, the data predicts that in 20 years from now, the cremation percentage will raise approximately by 30 percent.

Cremation rate by state:

State

Cremation rate

Washington

79.5%

Nevada

77.9%

Oregon

76.3%

Hawaii

71.6%

Arizona

69.7%

Montana

67.4%

Colorado

63.8%

Maine

58.6%

Alaska

56.0%

Vermont

55.9%

New Hampshire

54.7%

Florida

53.2%

California

51.5%

Wyoming

50.1%

Idaho

49.3%

New Mexico

47.0%

Minnesota

40.5%

Michigan

38.6%

District of Columbia

38.3%

Connecticut

37.2%

Delaware

33.1%

Rhode Island

31.8%

Wisconsin

31.5%

Massachusetts

31.2%

Illinois

29.6%

Pennsylvania

29.1%

Nebraska

28.3%

Maryland

28.2%

Kansas

27.9%

New Jersey

27.8%

New York

27.7%

Virginia

27.2%

North Carolina

25.1%

Missouri

24.8%

Ohio

24.8%

Texas

23.8%

Iowa

23.3%

Utah

22.8%

Oklahoma

22.7%

Georgia

22.1%

South Carolina

21.9%

Indiana

21.9%

South Dakota

20.8%

Arkansas

20.4%

North Dakota

19.3%

West Virginia

16.6%

Louisiana

16.2%

Tennessee

16.0%

Kentucky

12.3%

Alabama

11.1%

Mississippi

9.56%

 

According to CANA the cremation rate grew predictably by 1.5%, but the numbers are shocking. Over the course of the past two years, excess deaths surpassed one million. In comparison, between 2016 and 2029, deaths increased on average 37,000 year over year. In 2020, the US death numbers increased by more than 500,000—and those numbers held steady in 2021. In each of those years, almost 2 million people chose cremation.

While the death numbers were driven by COVID and other causes of excess deaths, choosing cremation is driven by consumer choice. Deathcare business models, protective legislation, pricing, etc., have had no visible impact on cremation rate growth or decline over time. Not even a pandemic has disrupted the cremation growth pattern (the yearly percentage and average growth rate). But the sheer numbers—with more than one million excess deaths over 2020 and 2021—resulted in more families than ever experiencing deaths and planning dispositions. When families choose cremation for the first time it can impact future decisions, so this is a trend to watch in your business and community.

The fast increase in the cremation rate also raises the question of what happens to cremains after the procedure. Families have many options.

Light Handmade Urn for Ashes - keepsake and large urn

Cremation set of urns for ashes by Pulvis Art Urns - "Light" full size urn and keepsake

According to the report, as of 2019, approximately 52% of cremated remains are kept at home in a funeral cremation urn or keepsake, 32% are buried at a cemetery, 16% are scattered. As the cremation rises in the following years, non-burial options for cremated remains are expected to become more popular as well.

 

 

 

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1 comment
  • Hello! I am doing a project in a sociology class on different after death practices.
    I am having a difficult time finding the percentage of people in India who chose to be cremated, and I was wondering if you could share the source you used for the 75% of Indians choosing cremation.
    Thank you so much!
    -Olympia

    Olympia Jett on

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