Cremation is the most popular funeral choice in the UK, poll shows

12 March 2021

Research shows that cremation is still the most popular funeral choice in the UK, followed by burial and donating for medical research.

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The poll has highlighted that cremation is the most popular funeral choice (54%), followed by burial (15%) and donating your body for medical research (9%). Almost 18% of respondents did not have a preference.

Cremation continues to be a more cost-effective option in many parts of the UK, though not all, and of course, burial is required by some religions. Whilst these two factors are likely to account for a proportion of the results, there are some other notable differences such as availability of local burial plots and whether late family members were buried or cremated. If the death was sudden, a cremation can give people more time to decide on the final resting place in terms of where to scatter their loved one’s ashes. Burials can offer a more permanent memorial option in the form of a headstone, with plaques generally available at most crematoria.

Women (58%) are more likely than men (50%) to wish to be cremated, whilst men (21%) are more likely than women (15%) not to have a preference. This is reflected in our previous research which saw men less likely to make funeral arrangements in advance.

Arranging a funeral can be an upsetting and emotional experience and the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis will have no doubt led people to reconsider plans for loved ones’ funerals, making the decision-making as well as the process even more difficult. The Royal London Funeral Cost Index 2020 saw a negative impact on grieving processes as result of lockdown funerals, in particular the inability to arrange a gathering. We are hopeful that families in this position will be able to arrange a memorial event later in 2021, regardless of whether they opted for a cremation, burial or medical research.

In terms of research purposes, medical facilities have been unable to accept body donations due to COVID-192 but are now looking to gradually resume these services. However, due to limitations which may go on for some time, the Human Tissue Authority recommends making other funeral plans2. 9% of survey respondents said they would choose to donate their body for medical research, with a fairly even split between men and women (52% and 48% respectively).

At Ecclesiastical Planning Services, we work with a network of funeral directors and have seen an increase in interest in direct cremation funeral plans for some time. These are unattended cremations with no service and no mourners.

Marketing Manager, Emma Simpson, said: “The decision as to whether to be buried, cremated or donate your body for medical research is an individual one. We encourage people to have these open conversations in advance, particularly for those who have not considered it previously, so that those left behind do not have to second-guess preferences at the time of need.”

1. OnePoll research of 1,000 UK residents aged 50 and above on behalf of Ecclesiastical Planning Services, December 2020.
2. The Human Tissue Authority website, December 2020.