Friday, October 7, 2016

A population based study of drowning in Canada

Title: A population based study of drowning in Canada
Authors: Tessa Clemens , Hala Tamim, Michael Rotondi and Alison K. Macpherson
Journal: BMC Public Health

It is always great to see publications from friends of ours in the field of drowning research, whom we have come to admire over the years.  Tessa Clemens has done some great work through the Drowning Prevention Research Centre in Canada.  This study utilizes their robust database to study the epidemiology of drowning deaths in Canada from 2008 to 2012.

Study Summary

  • Retrospective database analysis, 2008-2012
  • Unintentional water-related fatalities
  • Primary findings
    • 2391 cases studied
    • Highest fatality rates in 65+ group
    • 82% of deaths were males
    • 75% of deaths in natural waters
  • Age groups
    • 0-4 year olds
      • high proportion of deaths related to falling in to pool or while bathing
      • More likely to be alone
    • 5-14 year olds
      • lowest risk for drowning death
      • high proportion of summertime and pool deaths
    • 15-19 year olds
      • Mostly while swimming or boating in summer
    • 20-35 year olds
      • 2nd highest fatality rate
      • 50% had consumed alcohol prior to event
    • 36-64 year olds
      • Tended to be boating
    • 65+ year olds
      • More likely to drown in bath tubs and pools in urban areas
The most interesting finding of the study was the high proportion of deaths attributed to the 65+ age group.  This is very different from data from other countries, including the US, where the 0-4 year age group has the highest fatality rate.  The study attributes the low rate, which is significantly reduced from previous Canadian studies, to successful public health campaigns. As with other studies that have come out of this group, what is most impressive is their ability to collect and track high-quality, country-wide data on drowning morbidity and mortality.


  1. Excellent study.
    Were there co-morbidity issues with the 65+ group such as falls, heart attack or stroke?
    Is there data suggesting a decrease in the 5-15 year old group maybe due to the "Swim to Survive" program?

  2. Thanks for the question Bob. By the way, forgot to mention the article is open access, should be able to download free here:

    As for your questions, this study did not look at specific cormorbidities. It mainly focused on location, age, season, alcohol, pfd use. As we know, things like heart disease do increase your risk of fatal drowning. In terms of specific prevention programs, the authors only mention "Within Arms’ Reach". I am not aware of specific data on these programs

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