Deaths in the UK have been falling for decades, but the experts warn that this year will mark the tipping point, where the trend reverses, and the death rate starts to rocket. This, they warn, threatens to overwhelm the funeralindustry, push up costs, and leave thousands of people going into debt in order to afford a funeral.
The report, by the International Longevity Centre for OneFamily, explains that the oldest of the Baby Boomer generation are now moving into their later years. Between 1945 and 1965, 16 million children were born, creating a huge demographic bubble that has transformed childhood, teenage years and the world of work as they have moved through it.
The oldest - born in 1945 - are now 70-years-old, and they are starting to affect the funeral industry too. The report claims that as the death rate increases by as much as 20%, the need for funerals will soar.
Funeral costs are already going though the roof: the cost of a simple funeral rose 80% between 2004 and 2014, and the increased demand for funerals will mean funeral directors will be able to hike prices even further. Even the most simple funeral is expected to cost £5,226 by 2020. OneFamily is predicting what it is calling a 'funeral time bomb' as families face these costs.
Already families are struggling to afford funerals. More than one in four of those who have arranged a funeral in the past five years had to do it without any money being set aside by the person who died. In 2012, the average support the state offered for funeral expenses was just 37% of the cost of a simple funeral.
As a result, an estimated 109,000 UK adults incurred funeral debt in 2013, averaging £1,305 per person. In total, funeral debts built up in 2013 hit £142m and the ILC calculates that the total UK funeral debt could reach a quarter of a billion by the mid-2030s: an increase of 76%.
Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive of ILC, said: "More than half of UK households have less than £3,000 in savings and many will struggle to cover funeral costs. We all need to talk more about dying and ensure we are prepared for the inevitable. State support for funerals is complex and inadequate and without reforms will contribute to more people falling victim to funeral debt."
Simon Markey, CEO of OneFamily, added: "While the subject of end of life expenses can be a very delicate one to discuss, the findings highlight how starting this conversation could help avoid leaving loved ones with unexpected debts they may find difficult to manage."
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