It's no secret that life expectancy in the U.S. is trending upward. A person born today can expect to live eight years longer than someone born in the 1970s. But there's another trend you might not know about--and it's related not to what happens while we're alive, but rather to what happens to our bodies after we die.
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In 1958, only about one in 28 Americans were cremated upon death. Today, the percentage of Americans who are cremated has risen to more than 40 percent.
What explains the dramatic rise in the popularity of cremation? Experts say the shift is attributable mostly to demographic and economic factors.
"Families no longer stay in the old hometown the way they used to... Having the traditional family plot in the hometown cemetery just doesn't make sense for people who might never be there anyway," Josh Slocum, executive director of the nonprofit Funeral Consumers Alliance, told The Huffington Post in an email. "And since cremation is usually cheaper than burial (at least when you don't use a cemetery to bury the urn), it's an attractive prospect for the budget conscious."
But America's changing religious landscape also plays a role. "As more Americans decline to be involved in organized worship (and the majority of these people are still believers of a sort) there's less social pressure on them to produce what people characterize as a 'Christian' funeral,'" Slocum added. "The funeral industry has been remarkably successful at putting over commercial consumption--costly caskets, displaying preserved corpses--as 'Christian' and consumers have swallowed it without batting an eye."
Check out the infographic below for a fascinating look at cremation in the U.S.--from which U.S. state has the highest rate of cremation, to some of the strange ways people dispose of their loved ones' ashes.
Infographic by Jan Diehm for The Huffington Post.