Accidental Drowning is on the Rise, Especially Among the Youngest

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Accidental drowning are increasing in France, and especially among the youngest.

The number of deaths by accidental drowning is increasing sharply in France and especially among under-13s, where the figures are exploding, as a study reveals. Details

When the sunny days come and the hot weather, it is tempting to swim. But this is unfortunately not always safe … Nearly 600 people died by drowning *  in France between June 1 and September 30, 2018, reports a survey of the health agency Public Health France .

Especially accidental drowning

Of the 597 deaths (out of a total of 1,960 drownings, including 1,649 by accidental drowning) recorded during this period, 406 were due to accidental drowning and 89 to intentional drownings (suicides, assaults). The origin of the drownings that led to the other 102 deaths remains unknown.


In detail, there is a sharp increase in the number of accidental drownings in France, up 30% compared to the last survey conducted in 2015 (1266 in 2015, and 1649 in 2018) by the organization.

“Accidental drownings concern all places and all ages. The context of hot weather in the summer of 2018 is one of the factors that may explain the evolution between the 2015 and 2018 surveys, “say the authors of this study. As a reminder, the summer of 2018 was classified by Meteo France as the second hottest summer since 1900 after 2003.

Daily number of deaths by accidental drowning in France
Daily number of accidental drownings during the summer of 2018, France, 1 June to 30 September 2018 (N = 1,649) * (© SpF)

Children particularly affected

Even more edifying, the increase in accidental drownings is observed mainly in children under 13 years of age. In three years, the number of drownings has almost doubled in this age group (338 in 2015 and 600 in 2018).

For children under 6 years of age, the overall increase was 96% (226 in 2015 and 443 in 2018) and 132% (96 in 2015 and 223 in 2018) for the only family swimming pools. . Accidental drowning is the leading cause of life-threatening death for those under 25 years of age. Yet they are mostly preventable, report the authors of this study.

Breakdown of accidental drownings followed or not by age, France, 1 June to 30 September 2018 (N = 1,649)
Breakdown of accidental drownings followed or not by age, France, 1 June to 30 September 2018 (N = 1,649) (© SpF)

Coastal areas and private pools

Not surprisingly, departments and regions with a seafront are the most affected by drownings. In detail, most of them take place in the PACA, Occitanie and New Aquitaine regions. But many accidents also occur in private pools or rivers , as illustrated in this graph:

Breakdown of accidental drownings by drowning ground, France, 1 June to 30 September 2018 (N = 1,649)
Breakdown of accidental drownings by drowning ground, France, 1 June to 30 September 2018 (N = 1,649) * (© SpF)

Precautionary tips

A new drowning prevention campaign has been set up by the Ministry of Sports and the Ministry of Solidarity and Health.

Some simple tips are disclosed:

  • Learn to swim!
  • Always bathe with your children
  • Choose supervised bathing areas
  • Consider your state of form

In the case of swimming in a private swimming pool, Santé Public France recalls that the safety devices aim “to prevent accidental drownings outside bathing time”.

While “under 6 years, nearly three-quarters (73%) accidental drowning in private family pool took place during bathing time,” the authors of the study underline the importance of surveillance of adults and call for the development of prevention in this area, “a public health priority”.

The survey is carried out by questionnaire with the organized rescue services (firefighters, Samu-Smur, etc.) from  June 1st to September 30th in Metropolitan France and Overseas France. A drowning is taken into account if there is the intervention of an organized rescue followed by hospitable care (passage to the emergencies, hospitalization) or a death.

Accidental Drowning is on the Rise, Especially Among the Youngest 1

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