MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — The 2022 results of Choice Mutual Insurance Agency‘s annual survey on burial preferences show a potential shift away from cremation and toward natural burial. The survey reached 1,500 people in the US, ages 18 and older.
According to the survey, cremation preferences decreased from 44% in 2020 to 37% in 2022. Cremation remains a popular option (potentially because of its low cost and convenience) but could be decreasing in popularity due to a growing number of recent studies showing the environmental impact of cremation. In the past, cremation was seen as a more eco-friendly option because traditional burials take up large amounts of land and require burying concrete and toxic embalming fluid. But, cremation has its faults in the level of carbon dioxide and other toxic substances that are released in the burning process.
A preference for natural burial has risen by 6%, according to the survey. A natural burial is defined as placing the body directly into the ground where it can naturally decompose instead of embalming the body and putting it into a casket.
The survey shows an age gap for people who are aware of the natural burial option—only 55% of those older than 54 said they are familiar with the alternative compared to 79% of the 25-34 age group.
The survey asked participants if they would consider body composting, which it defined as “the natural process of body decomposition to create usable, nutrient-dense soil.” This is different from natural burial and is a relatively new practice that is only legal in Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Vermont.
The survey showed that nearly 50% indicated that they would consider body composting. This option also had a considerable age gap, with only 31% of those older than 54 indicating they would consider it, compared to 62% of people between 25-34.
While financial reasons only made up 12% of the key reasons for the survey respondents’ burial decisions, the cost of the funeral/burial was one of the biggest concerns for end-of-life plans at 36%.
According to Choice Mutual, a natural burial is generally cheaper than a traditional burial because you will not be paying for the embalming or metal casket, which can cost thousands. Data published by the National Funeral Directors Association indicates that the median cost of a traditional funeral in 2021 is $7,848, compared to Choice Mutual’s assessment in their 2020 report that the starting cost of a natural burial is $3,500.
While the number of people using life insurance to pay for burial and funeral costs decreased over the past few years, it remains the number one way expenses will be covered, according to the survey. WBOY asked the insurance company if natural/green burial options would be covered in an insurance policy.
“Burial insurance is a small whole life insurance policy that seniors can qualify for regardless of health,” said Choice Mutual CEO Anthony Martin. “All forms of life insurance simply pay out a tax-free cash benefit to the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries can use that money for any reason, including paying for a green burial.”
The survey also asked participants about their level of worry about end-of-life plans and if loved ones are aware of their burial/funeral plans. More information about the survey and its methodology is available on Choice Mutual’s website.