Drowning-related injuries and deaths: data blog:

Summary of statistics highlighting injuries and deaths associated with drowning events.

  • Last updated: 2023-07-24

Water activities, such as swimming, canoeing and kayaking are popular in Canada. While offering individuals numerous health benefits, activities that take place in bodies of water (even bathing!) require many safety considerations. Presented below are statistics highlighting non-fatal and fatal drowning events, using the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP) database, the Canadian Institute for Health Information Discharge Abstract Database (DAD) and the Canadian Vital Statistics – Death Database (CVSD).

What is drowning?

Drowning is defined as a process of experiencing breathing difficulties resulting from being in or under a liquid, such as waterFootnote 1. Such an injury can cause serious, long-term health outcomes to individuals and be fatal.

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Emergency Departments (CHIRPP database)

How many cases were there?

Between April 1, 2011 and April 13, 2023, there were 1,109 drowning-related cases reported in CHIRPP, representing 58.6 cases/100,000 CHIRPP records. Of the 1,109 drowning-related cases, males accounted for more than half (58.9%) of the emergency department (ED) visits. Infants and children aged 9 years or younger represented the largest percentage at 79.2% (n = 878)Footnote *. A total of 35 drowning fatalities have been reported in CHIRPP since 2011. Of those, children aged between 2 and 9 years accounted for 60.0% of cases (n = 21).

When do drownings happen?

Drownings happen year-round. The majority of cases (73.0%; n = 810) occurred during warmer months (May, June, July, August and September), among which 507 cases involved swimming pools (62.5%) and 176 cases, natural bodies of water. There were 200 cases (18.0%) reported during the colder months (January, February March, November and December). Half of these cases (n =100) occurred in bathtubs and 80 in swimming pools (40.0%).

Where do drownings happen?

Swimming Pool

Of all 1,109 drowning cases, the majority (56.3%; n = 624) occurred in residential or public swimming pools, among which, 79.6% were infants and children aged 9 years or younger (n = 497).


There were 237 reported drownings (21.4%) that occurred in bathtubs, 73.0% of which involved infants aged 1 year or younger (n = 173).

Natural Bodies of Water

Nearly one-fifth (18.8%; n = 209) of all drownings occurred in natural bodies of water, including ponds, lakes and rivers. The majority of these cases (62.2%) involved infants and children aged 9 years or younger (n = 130).

What level of in-hospital treatment was needed?

Overall, 42.4% of patients required observation or received medical treatment in the ED (n =470), while 28.5% of patients were admitted to the hospital for treatment (n = 316).

Hospitalizations (Discharge Abstract Database)

Between fiscal years 2009/10 and 2021/22 there were 2,283 drowning-related hospitalizationsFootnote ** in Canada, excluding Quebec hospitals, an average of 175 per year. Of these cases, 64.4% were males (n = 1,470).

Presented in Table 1 is a breakdown of the types of body of water where the drownings occurred. Drownings involving swimming pools had the highest percentage at 34.9%. Among these cases, 65.5% involved children under the age of 15 years (n =521). Drownings involving natural bodies of water represented 29.2% of hospitalizations, among which 72.1% were aged 20 years or older.

Table 1: Number and proportion of drowning-related hospitalizations by type of body of water - Canadian Institute for Health Information Discharge Abstract Database (DAD) (2009/10 - 2021/22)
Body of water Count Proportion (%)
Swimming pool 796 34.9
Natural bodies of water 666 29.2
Bath 229 10.0
Unspecified 592 25.9

Deaths (Canadian Vital Death Statistics)

Drowning is one of the leading causes of injury death among childrenFootnote 2.

How many deaths were due to drownings?

In 2020, 323 people died due to unintentional drowningsFootnote ** in Canada, among which nearly half (47%; n =152) occurred in natural bodies water. Between 2015 and 2020, there have been 1,768 reported deaths, an average 294 per year.

Swimming Pools

Of the 323 deaths, 39 people (12.1%) died from drowning in swimming pools. Of these cases, 43.6% were children between the ages of 1 and 9 years (n = 17).

Take Note

The results presented above should be interpreted with caution as they do not represent all drowning cases in Canada. CHIRPP is a sentinel surveillance system that collects data from select emergency departments across Canada. Injuries involving Indigenous peoples including Inuit, Métis and First Nations and people who live in rural areas may be under-represented in the CHIRPP database, as most CHIRPP hospital sites are located in major cities. Fatal injuries are also under-represented in the CHIRPP database as the emergency department data do not capture deaths occurring before being taken to the hospital or after being admitted via another department. Information is continuously entered into the CHIRPP database; therefore, some years do not yet have complete data. As noted above, hospitalization and death counts are based on International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision, Canada (ICD-10-CA) codes W65-W74.

Learn more about: Swimming safety, Recreational water activities, Water toys, Choosing lifejackets or Personal flotation devices, and Drowning prevention.

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