The cost of dying: Four charts showing why we're facing a "funeral time-bomb"

Jessica Morris
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It's becoming increasingly expensive to die (Source: Getty)

We're living through a remarkable time in which "noflation" is making it increasingly cheap to live in the UK - and yet the cost of dying is soaring.

The cost of a simple funeral has risen by 80 per cent in the six years to 2014, from £1,920 to £3,590, according to a new report, echoing earlier research which found funeral costs are rising at seven times the rate of inflation.

And the research by the International Longevity Centre (ILC) shows Britain's rapidly ageing population means funeral costs are set to increase even more.

This chart shows the baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1965, as a clearly visible bulge in the UK population. Nearly 16m children were born in the 20 years after the second world war, peaking at 881,026 born in 1947.

As they age, the proportion of our population aged over 65 is projected to rise from around 18 per cent today, to over 22 per cent by 2030. That will put pressure on a range of services such as health, social care and the pension system - and funeral costs.

"The greying of the baby boomers also means that an increasing number and proportion of the UK population are nearing the end of their lives," the report said. "The resulting inevitable increase in the number of deaths coincides with the significant increases in funeral costs which are already at an all-time high."

The above chart shows there's been a downward trend in the number of deaths in the UK since the 1990s. But due to the ageing population, it's likely to trough this year at around 521,000, and subsequently increase.

"We are at a tipping point – in the next 20 years we project that deaths will increase by 20 per cent," it said. "By 2037 annual deaths in the UK are expected to reach over 627,000, a level last seen around 1998."

Basic funeral

The report said an ageing population will put pressure on available burial space. In addition to this, cremation costs could rise, as well as the fees charged by funeral directors. This, combined with increasingly stretched local government budgets, will all push up funeral costs.

If funeral costs continue to rise at the pace seen in the last decade, by 2024 the cost of a simple funeral will have almost doubled to £6,713. Even if costs simply rise in line with rising prices based on the levels of inflation seen over the past 10 years, the cost of a simple funeral will still rise to £4,672 by 2024.

Full funeral

The report also looked at the future costs of a full funeral, which is harder to calculate as it includes discretionary costs like flowers, catering and a memorial, which fluctuate year-on-year. What's more, people may choose to spend less on these as the cost of a simple funeral rises.

But assuming people will spend £1,995 on discretionary costs, based on the average in the six years to 2014, and with costs rising in line with inflation, a full funeral will set you back around £7,200 from 2024.

However if the price rises of the past decade continue, in ten years from now a full funeral could cost as much as £8,700.

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