Funeral industry wants to know: Why are fewer people dying?


The funeral industry is usually seen as a defensive sector, a safe haven for investors during a recession. Indeed, in their most recent quarter, the four publicly traded deathcare companies all posted increased revenue per funeral. Of course, people continue to die in a recession but funerals are usually paid from the proceeds of estates, or from insurance policies, so they tend not to be trimmed back even when times are hard.

Yet overall revenue at all those companies declined during that time. The reason? A much lower mortality rate. In general, mortality rate has been on a decline. In 2006, there were 810 deaths per 100,000 population, much less than the roughly 860 deaths in 1999, only seven years before. And with lower death rates, the number of funerals performed at the deathcare companies has been on a decline as well (comparatively).

Interestingly, in the first quarter of 2009 the drop in death rates accelerated sharply.

Originally published