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Drowning related deaths and injuries Published: ()

Summertime is about taking almost every indoor activity and doing it outside. It also means finding ways to stay cool. While many of us enjoy a good swim, it is an activity that requires much safety. Presented below are statistics highlighting drownings, using the electronic Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (eCHIRPP) database, the Discharge Abstract Database, 2010-2017 (DAD) and the Canadian Vital Statistics – Death Database (CVSD).

What is drowning?

Based on the World Health Organization’s definition, drowning is defined as a respiratory impairment resulting from being in or under a liquid1. Using the term “near drowning” to refer to those who survive is no longer recommended, and is not used in our analysis. Therefore, we use the term “drowning” to include either death or survival.

Emergency Departments (eCHIRPP database)

How many cases were there?

Between April 2011 and July 2019, there were 655 drowning-related cases reported in selected emergency departments (ED) across Canada, representing 58 cases/100,000 eCHIRPP records.

Males > Females

Of the 655 drowning-related cases, males accounted for more than half (61%) of the emergency department visits.

0 to 9 years of age

Children between the ages of 0 and 9 years represented the largest proportion of drowning-related cases at 79%.

0 to 4 years of age

Since 2011, there have been 22 drowning fatalities reported in the eCHIRPP database. Of those, children and infants aged 4 years or younger accounted for 50% of such fatalities.

When do drownings happen?

Although majority of the reported drowning cases (62%) occurred during summer months (June, July, August), there were 67 reported cases (10%) that occurred during winter months (December, January, February).

Where do drownings happen?

Swimming Pool

The majority (57%) of drownings occurred in swimming pools in both residential and public settings with 49 % of the cases children and infants aged 4 years or younger.

Natural Bodies of Water

Nearly one-fifth (19%) of all drownings reported in the eCHIRPP database occurred in, or around, natural bodies of water, including ponds, lakes and rivers – 42% of these cases were children and infants aged 4 years or younger.


125 drowning-related cases occurred in bathtubs, 80% involved children aged 1 year or younger.

What level of in-hospital treatment was needed?

Overall, 18% of patients received medical treatment in the emergency department, while 29% of patients had injuries serious enough to be admitted to hospital for treatment.

Hospitalizations (Discharge Abstract Database)

Between 2010 and 2017 there were 1,340 drowning hospitalizations in Canada.

Males > Females

Of all the people hospitalized due to drowning, more than 65% were male.

19 years or younger

53% of hospitalizations associated with drowning were people 19 years or younger.

1 to 4 years of age

Nearly half (46%) of drowning-related hospitalizations involving children between the ages of 1 and 4 years occurred in swimming pools.

Natural Bodies of Water

Over a quarter (26%) of all hospitalizations from drowning and submersions in Canada, between 2010 and 2017, happened in natural bodies of water. 15% of the people hospitalized were 1 to 4 years old.

Swimming Pool

The leading cause of drowning hospitalizations across Canada between 2010 and 2017 was drowning while being in, or falling into, a swimming pool.

Deaths (Canadian Vital Death Statistics)

Drowning is a leading cause of death for children and infants2.

Natural Bodies of Water

In 2017, 290 people died due to unintentional drownings across Canada. 123 people (42%) died from falling into or being in natural water.

Swimming Pool

Of the 290 deaths, 28 people (10%) died from drowning or falling in swimming pools, 14% were children between the ages of 1 and 4 years.

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 and collects data from select emergency departments across Canada. Teenagers older than 18 years of age, Aboriginal persons and people who live in rural areas may be under-represented in the eCHIRPP database, as most CHIRPP sites are paediatric hospitals located in major cities. Fatal injuries are also under-represented in the eCHIRPP database because the emergency department data do not capture people who died before they could be taken to hospital or those who died after being admitted via another department. Information is continuously entered into the eCHIRPP database; therefore, some years do not yet have complete data.

Reported DAD figures exclude Quebec.

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


1. World Health Organization. Violence and Injury Prevention: Drowning [Internet]. World Health Organization; 2018 Jun 27 [cited 2019 July 16].

2. Yao X, Skinner R, McFaull S, Thompson W. 2015 injury deaths in Canada. Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention in Canada. 2019: 39(6/7); 225-231.

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