The funeral industry is struggling to keep up with the changing body types of many Australians. As the national obesity trend grows, the funeral and cemetery sectors are having to produce bigger coffins, broader cremators, and wider graves in order to cater for their heavier and girthier clients.
The changes follow in step with a number of hospitals and medical centres that are already modifying their furniture to accommodate for a growing number of bariatric patients. And with the latest statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare indicating that somewhere around 63 per cent of the population—that is, more than 11 million people—were overweight or obese in 2014-15, the need for innovation is only intensifying.
“Everything needed to handle our increasing weight… equipment used by ambulances, hospitals and funeral directors, and finally cemeteries and crematoria, has to get bigger,” Australasian Cemeteries and Crematoria Association president Darryl Thomas told the ABC.
“And as coffins get bigger, other issues have to be addressed. Bigger coffins are heavier and workers’ health and safety have to be considered. Firms are using stronger equipment to lower coffins into graves or transfer them to cremators.”
Whereas a standard coffin was once 650 millimetres wide, Darryl explains that it’s now having to be increased to 700 millimetres. Graves, meanwhile, can be broadened to about 900 millimetres in order to comfortably fit larger bodies.
That could be a problem when it comes to real estate. Certain metropolitan areas around the country are already suffering from a shortage of burial plots, and as cemeteries run out of capacity, the price for a spot of land where you can lay your head for an eternity is rising.
The cost of a cemetery plot in Sydney has doubled over the past five years, according to funeral comparison site Gathered Here, with “a basic lawn grave at Waverley Cemetery [starting] at $21,200 and [rising] quickly to $52,000 for more expensive options.”
If our graves keep getting bigger, that issue is only going to get worse. And before long, the chance of us owning our own piece of land in death might be as unlikely as it is in life.