New CDC report on racial and ethnic disparities in drowning death rates in the U.S.

From: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

While rates have decreased, disparities persist for some groups

New CDC report on racial and ethnic disparities in drowning death rates in the U.S.
Drowning death rates have decreased in recent decades, but remain disproportionately high among some racial and ethnic groups, according to a new report released today, “Persistent Racial / Ethnic Disparities in Fatal Unintentional Drowning Rates Among Persons Aged ≤29 Years — United States, 1999–2019,” in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

From 1999–2019, 34,315 people aged 29 years and younger died from unintentional drowning in the U.S.—making drowning one of the three leading causes of unintentional injury death among this age
group.

During this time, drowning death rates decreased among most racial and ethnic groups, but did not decrease among American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN) people and Hispanic people. The disparity
in drowning death rates between Black and White people increased in recent years.

Compared to White people:
  • Drowning death rates for AI/AN people were 2 times higher, with the highest disparities among those ages 25–29 (rates 3.5 times higher).
  • Drowning death rates for Black people were 1.5 times higher. Disparities were highest among Black children ages 5–9 (rates 2.6 times higher) and ages 10–14 (rates 3.6 times higher).
  • Disparities in swimming pool drowning death rates were highest among Black children ages 10–14 years, with rates 7.6 times higher.
  • Disparities in natural water drowning death rates were highest among AI/AN people, with rates 2.7 times higher. Black people had drowning rates 1.6 times higher in natural water, with the highest disparities among
  • children 10–14 years (rates 3.4 times higher).
  • Drowning is a leading cause of injury death for children and youth and kills more children age 1–4 years than any other cause except birth defects.

Drowning is preventable and more prevention efforts are needed to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in drowning death rates in the U.S. 

We can reduce drowning disparities and save lives by:

  • understanding the factors that drive racial and ethnic differences in drowning risk,
  • engaging the populations and communities at highest risk of drowning to help develop effective prevention strategies, and
  • improving access to drowning prevention programs, such as increased basic swimming and water safety

Read more findings and prevention strategies in the MMWR.

CDC also released a new drowning prevention website today. Visit www.cdc.gov/drowning for the latest science and prevention advice on this important public health issue. 

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