Someone Drowns Every 90 Seconds

WHO report says 'neglected public health issue' causes 372K deaths a year
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2014 2:20 PM CST
Someone Drowns Every 90 Seconds
WHO report says 'neglected public health issue' causes 372K deaths a year.   (AP Photo/Michigan Sea Grant, Dave Brenner)

It's one of the top 10 killers of kids and young adults, but a new WHO report says that drowning remains a "neglected public health issue" that's still happening with alarming frequency around the world, Scientific American reports. The study points out some startling statistics: More than 40 people die, on average, every hour from drowning (about one person every 90 seconds), resulting in 372,000 deaths per year. Men are twice as likely to drown as women, with possible reasons including ill-advised behavior such as swimming solo or drinking alcohol before taking a dip. More than 90% of drowning deaths occur in low- and middle-income nations—and the numbers account for nearly two-thirds the deaths that malnutrition claims, and more than half that of malaria deaths, even though those two issues are the recipients of "broad prevention" initiatives, the report adds.

In the US, the numbers are similarly sobering. An average of 10 people die daily from drowning; 20% of them are kids 14 and under, the CDC reports—and for every child in that age group who drowns, five receive ER care for "submersion injuries." The study, which the WHO hopes will "galvanize attention and action," notes that "prevention is vital," as a person who starts drowning is often not likely to make it and because survival depends "almost exclusively" on how the victim is treated at the scene of the incident. Prevention methods on both the community and national level suggested by the WHO report include better swimming and water safety instruction; barriers (e.g., pool fencing) around bodies of water; and improved boating regulations, such as the CDC's tip to wear life jackets to reduce drowning risk. (You can even drown hours after you’ve gone swimming.)

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