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How big is the problem?

Who is most at risk?

What are the major risk factors?

What has CDC research found?

How can water-related injuries be prevented?

How big is the problem?

Who is most at risk?

What are the major risk factors?

What has CDC research found?

A CDC study about self-reported swimming ability14 found that:

  • Younger respondents reported greater swimming ability than older respondents;

  • Self-reported ability increased with level of education (i.e., high school graduate, college graduate, etc.);

  • Among racial groups, African Americans reported the most limited swimming ability; and

  • Men of all ages, races, and educational levels consistently reported greater swimming ability than women.

Details about additional studies and their findings are highlighted in the Water-Related Injuries: CDC Activities fact sheet.

How can water-related injuries be prevented?

To help prevent water-related injuries:1, 8, 9, 12, 13

If you have a swimming pool at home:

If you are in or around natural bodies of water:


1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2008) [cited 2008 March 23]. Available from: URL:

2U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security (US). Boating Statistics – 2006 [online]. 2008. [cited 2008 March 26]. Available from URL:

3Branche CM. What is happening with drowning rates in the United States? In: Fletemeyer JR and Freas SJ, editors. Drowning: New perspectives on intervention and prevention. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press LLC; 1999.

4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Swimming and Recreational Water Safety. In: Health Information for International Travel 2005-2006. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 2005.

5 Branche CM, Dellinger AM, Sleet DA, Gilchrist J, Olson SJ. Unintentional injuries: the burden, risks and preventive strategies to address diversity. In: Livingston IL, editor. Praeger handbook of Black American health (2nd edition): Policies and issues behind disparities in health. Westport (CT): Praeger Publishers; 2004. p. 317-27.

6 Brenner RA, Trumble AC, Smith GS, Kessler EP, Overpeck MD. Where children drown, United States, 1995. Pediatrics 2001;108(1):85–9.

7Present P. Child drowning study. A report on the epidemiology of drowning in residential pools to children under age five. Washington (DC): Consumer Product Safety Commission (US); 1987.

8U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Safety barrier guidelines for home pools [online]. [cited 2007 Mar 21]. Available from URL:

9Gilchrist J, Gotsch K, Ryan GW. Nonfatal and Fatal Drownings in Recreational Water Settings—United States, 2001 and 2002. MMWR 2004;53(21):447–52.

10Howland J, Mangione T, Hingson R, Smith G, Bell N. Alcohol as a risk factor for drowning and other aquatic injuries. In: Watson RR, editor. Alcohol and accidents. Drug and alcohol abuse reviews. Vol 7. Totowa (NJ): Humana Press, Inc.; 1995.

11Howland J, Hingson R. Alcohol as a risk factor for drownings: A review of the literature (1950–1985). Accident Analysis and Prevention 1988;20(1):19–25.

12Smith GS, Kraus JF. Alcohol and residential, recreational, and occupational injuries: A review of the epidemiologic evidence. Annual Rev of Public Health 1988;9:99–121.

13Quan L, Bennett E, Branche C. Interventions to prevent drowning. In Doll L, Bonzo S, Mercy J, Sleet D (Eds). Handbook of injury and violence prevention. New York: Springer, 2007

14 Gilchrist J, Sacks JJ, Branche CM. Self-reported swimming ability in U.S. adults, 1994. Public Health Reports 2000;115(2–3):110–1.


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Content Source: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention
Page last modified: June 12, 2008