Unintentional Drowning Deaths in the United States, 1999–2010

Drowning is the third leading cause of death from unintentional injury worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths according to 2004 data from the World Health Organization.  Previous reports indicated that, although the death rate from unintentional drowning for persons aged 0–19 years decreased in the United States, drowning had become the major cause of death from unintentional injury among children aged 1–4 years.  To facilitate injury prevention programs, A new NCHS report analyzed mortality data from the National Vital Statistics System from 1999 through 2010 to provide more detailed information on characteristics and patterns of unintentional drowning deaths, including recent trends and drowning by day of week, age group, sex, and place of incident.

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Key Findings from the Report:

  • From 1999 through 2010, a total of 46,419 deaths from unintentional drowning (including boating) occurred in the United States, an average of 3,868 deaths per year.
  • Drowning death rates decreased over time for all age groups except for adults aged 45–84.
  • The average daily number of deaths from unintentional drowning on a weekend day was 48% higher than that on a weekday (13.8 versus 9.3 deaths).
  • Since 2005, unintentional drowning has replaced motor vehicle traffic incidents as the leading cause of death from unintentional injury for boys aged 1–4 years.
  • Drowning occurred most often in a bath tub for persons under 1 year of age and for adults aged 85 and over, in a swimming pool for children aged 1–4 years, and in natural water for persons aged 5–84 years.
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