Statistics about drowning

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UK drowning statistics for 2010 (the latest available data)

 In general

  • Most drownings are avoidable
  • One in five adults in the UK cannot swim
  • Usually more than half of people who drown knew how to swim
  • Drowning is the 3rd most common cause of accidental death in children in this country.
  • Many more thousands (as many as 1 in 500 people) have near drowning experiences, some of which cause long-term physical effects, such as brain damage

 Overall figure for 2010

  • 420 deaths by drowning (not including suicides or suspected suicides) – this equates to nearly one drowning every 17 hours


  • Only 57 of the casualties were children up to the age of 19, which is less than 14%

 Time of year

  • The highest numbers of death by drowning occurred in April, June and August, coinciding with school and bank holidays

 Drowning venues

  • Nearly 50% of the deaths by drowning were of people who did not intend to be in the water
  • The most common place for drownings in 2010 were in a river (25% of all drownings), followed by the sea (about 17% of all drownings), followed by the coast/shore/beach (roughly 15% of all drownings)
  • Amongst 0 – 4-year olds ponds were the most common venue for drownings in 2010, with 8 deaths.  This is 4 times higher than death by drowning in other venues
  • Amongst 15 – 19-year olds the most common drowning venue was in a river, with 9 deaths.  The second most common venue was a lake, with 5 deaths.


  • Of recorded accidental deaths, more than 75% were male.
  • The most common age for male deaths was 20 – 24-years old (25 deaths).  The most common age for female deaths was 50 – 54 (9 deaths).
  • Amongst 0 – 4-year olds 11 boys drowned and 1 girl

Drowning activities

The top 5 determinable activities that were being undertaken by people as they drowned were:

  1. Walking/running (58 people)
  2. In manually powered boats (33 people)
  3.  Swimming (31 people)
  4. Commercial (31 people
  5. Angling (30)

 Statistics provided by National Water Safety Forum

To find out more about Water Safety Awareness Week please visit

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