When you die, there are only three legal options for the disposal of your body. You can be buried in the ground (or at sea), you can be cremated, or you can donate your body to science. For years, burial was the most popular choice, but in the past two years, the National Funeral Directors Association has seen a shift toward cremation. In 2016, families chose cremation in 50.2 percent of all deaths, compared to 43.5 percent for traditional burial. Possible reasons for this change include the fact that cremation is usually less expensive than burial, and because adherence to religious norms is becoming less prevalent.
Gone but not forgotten:
- Cremation rates are low in the South and Southeast, and generally higher in the West, ranging from 20.9 percent in Mississippi to 76.4 percent in Washington state.
- The authors of the report estimate that by 2035, cremation rates will reach 78.8 percent nationwide. In Japan, 99 percent of the dead are cremated.
- In the United States, bodies can be buried at sea if the location is at least 600 feet (183 m) deep, and ashes must be scattered at least three miles (4.8 km) from shore. Janis Joplin, L. Ron Hubbard, Ingrid Bergman, Steve McQueen, and Jerry Garcia were all buried at sea.