Rising Drowning Deaths Highlight Need for Improved Water Safety

Swimming poolPhoto by Matthias Cooper on Pexels.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Drowning deaths are on the rise in the United States after decades of decline, according to a new CDC Vital Signs study. From 2020 to 2022, over 4,500 people died each year due to drowning—500 more per year compared to 2019.

CDC experts investigated drowning deaths, self-reported swimming skills, participation in swimming lessons, and exposure to recreational water. The latest report emphasizes that increased access to basic swimming and water safety skills training can save lives.

“I’ve seen firsthand the effects of drowning: families forced to say goodbye to their loved ones too soon,” said Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H., CDC’s chief medical officer. “CDC’s drowning prevention experts collected high-quality data to better understand how we can protect people in communities across the United States. Understanding the barriers people face to accessing basic swimming and water safety skills training can help us better address those barriers, decrease drowning rates, and save lives.”

The groups already at higher risk experienced the greatest increases in drowning deaths: children aged 1-4 years, adults 65 years and older, and Black individuals of all ages.

Drowning remains the leading cause of death for children aged 1-4 years in the United States. The study shows that drowning rates were highest among this age group. By race and ethnicity, non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native and non-Hispanic Black individuals experienced the highest drowning rates.

Swimming lessons could be a lifesaver. Nearly 40 million adults (15.4%) in the United States do not know how to swim, and over half (54.7%) have never taken a swimming lesson. More than one in three (36.8%) Black adults reported they do not know how to swim, compared to 15% of all adults. Additionally, two in three Black adults (63%) and three in four Hispanic adults (72%) said they had never taken a swimming lesson. Research suggests that differences in self-reported swimming ability may be linked to disparities in access to swimming lessons or other historical and social factors. For example, swimming lessons may be too expensive or unavailable in some communities, some people may fear water, or others may feel uncomfortable wearing traditional swimwear.

READ:  CDC's Annual Update Reveals Higher Long COVID Rates Among People with Disabilities

“No one should have to lose a loved one to drowning. Improving access to effective prevention strategies, like basic swimming and water safety skills training, can reduce drowning risk,” said Tessa Clemens, Ph.D., health scientist in CDC’s Division of Injury Prevention and lead author of the report. “CDC provides expertise, support, and resources to increase drowning prevention efforts among communities and individuals at highest risk of drowning.”

Saving Lives through Water Safety

The rising trend in drowning deaths highlights a critical public health issue. Children and older adults are particularly vulnerable, and educational and preventive measures are crucial to reducing these tragedies. By making swimming lessons more accessible and affordable, communities can equip individuals with the skills needed to stay safe in and around water.

Furthermore, addressing the disparities in swimming competency among different racial and ethnic groups is essential. Historical, social, and economic barriers have contributed to these gaps, and targeted interventions are necessary to bridge them. Providing affordable swimming lessons in underserved communities, promoting water safety education, and addressing cultural concerns can make a significant difference.

In summary, the recent rise in drowning deaths in the United States calls for urgent action. Increased access to swimming lessons and water safety education can save lives and prevent needless tragedies. The CDC’s focus on understanding and addressing the barriers to water safety training is a vital step toward ensuring safer communities for all.

For the latest news on everything happening in Chester County and the surrounding area, be sure to follow MyChesCo on Google News and Microsoft Start.