Drowning epidemiology and demographics

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Epidemiology and Demographics


In many countries, drowning is one of the leading causes of death for children under 14 years old. Children have drowned in wading pools and even bath tubs. The rate of drowning in populations around the world varies widely according to their access to water, the climate and the national swimming culture. For example, typically the United Kingdom suffers 450 drownings per annum or 1 per 150,000 of population whereas the United States suffers 6,500 drownings or around 1 per 50,000 of population. Drowning related injuries are the fifth most likely cause of accidental death in the US. In some regions, drowning is the second most likely cause of injury and death for children after car accidents. The rate of near drowning incidents is unknown.

Victims are more likely to be male, young or adolescent. Surveys indicate that 10% of children under 5 have experienced a situation with a high risk of drowning. Most drownings occur in water, 90% in freshwater (rivers, lakes and pools) 10% in seawater, drownings in other fluids are rare and often industrial accidents. The causes of drowning cases in the US are as follows:

  • 44% are related to swimming
  • 17% are related to boating
  • 14% are unattributed
  • 10% related to scuba diving
  • 7% related to car accidents


  • Males are more likely to drown than females, especially in the 18-24 age group.


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