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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 many safety considerations. Presented below are statistics highlighting drownings, using the electronic Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (eCHIRPP) 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 a respiratory impairment resulting from being in or under a liquidFootnote 1. 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 both death and non-fatal submersion.

Emergency Departments (eCHIRPP database)

How many cases were there?

Between April 2011 and July 2021, there were 918 drowning-related cases reported in selected emergency departments (ED) across Canada, representing 60 cases/100,000 eCHIRPP records.

Males > Females

Of the 918 drowning-related cases, males accounted for more than half (59%) of the emergency department visits.

Children and Infants

Children and infants aged 9 years or younger represented the largest percentage of drowning-related cases at 80% (n = 731)Footnote *.

Since 2011, there have been 32 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 the majority of the reported drowning cases (65%) occurred during summer months (June, July, August, September), 150 reported cases (16%) occurred during winter months (December, January, February, March).

Where do drownings happen?

Swimming Pool

The majority (55%) of drownings occurred in swimming pools in both residential and public settings, with 53% of these cases involving children and infants aged 4 years or younger.

Natural Bodies of Water

Over one-fifth (21%) of all drownings reported in the eCHIRPP database occurred in natural bodies of water, including ponds, lakes and rivers. Most of these cases (64%) involved children and infants aged 9 years or younger.


194 drowning-related cases (21%) occurred in bathtubs, 76% of which involved infants aged 1 year or younger.

What level of in-hospital treatment was needed?

Overall, 42% of patients were observed or 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 fiscal years 2009/10 and 2019/20 there were 1,930 drowning-related hospitalizationsFootnote ** in Canada, excluding Quebec hospitals.

Males > Females

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

25 years of age or younger

57% of hospitalizations associated with drowning were people under the age of 25.

Swimming Pools

Nearly half (48%) 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 (28%) of all drowning-related hospitalizations happened in natural bodies of water. Of these drownings, 71% of the people hospitalized were aged 20 years or older.

Leading Causes

The leading cause of drowning-related hospitalizations was drowning while being in, or falling into, a swimming pool, representing 36% of records (n = 703). Drowning-related hospitalizations involving natural bodies of water followed in ranking, representing 28% of records (n = 534).

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 2019, 232 people died due to unintentional drownings across Canada. 108 people (47%) died from falling into or being in natural water.

Swimming Pools

Of the 232 deaths, 32 people (14%) died from drowning or falling in swimming pools and 19% were children between the ages of 1 and 9 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, Indigenous peoples including Inuit, Metis and First Nations 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. Hospitalization 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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