Drowning data and facts

Learn about drownings among children, adolescents, and adults

In the United States, drowning is currently a leading cause of death in children aged 1- 4 and the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of 5-14.1 There are over 4,000 fatal drownings occurring each year in the US, and over 8,000 near-drownings that are nonfatal.1

In Massachusetts, there were 57 unintentional drowning deaths and 86 non-fatal near-drowning cases that required treatment at an acute care hospital in 2022.2,3 Summer months continue to be the time of year when most drownings occur.2,3 Generally, drowning death rates are higher in July and August, which were noted in 2022; however, in 2021, June had the most drowning deaths.2   

Child and adolescent drowning

In 2022, there were nine unintentional drowning deaths among Massachusetts children ages 1-17. The majority of these drowning deaths occurred among the ages 5-9 (four deaths) followed by the 1-4 year age group (three deaths). While water safety is important for everyone, it’s especially important for children and teens as they can be curious and eager to explore their surroundings, may not know how to swim, or may not understand the dangers and hidden hazards around water.

Parents and caregivers can take life-saving steps to help keep their children safe and prevent drownings. Enrolling children in swim lessons is one of the best ways to reduce their risk for drowning and learn water safety skills. For children who may not know how to swim or are weaker swimmers, parents should make sure their child wears a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Furthermore, even if their child is a strong swimmer, it’s important to provide close supervision and teach children to use the buddy system while swimming.

Learn about water safety for children at our water safety for everyone page. 

Adult drowning

In 2022, 48 unintentional drowning deaths occurred among Massachusetts residents ages 18 and over. Most of the drowning deaths occurred in age groups 25-34 (23%) followed by 45-54 and 65-74 age groups (17% each) and 75-84 (13%). Most of these drowning deaths occurred in natural bodies of water such as lakes, ponds, rivers, and the ocean. Alcohol was involved in 7% of the drowning deaths.2

There are several precautions adults can take to keep themselves safe while swimming and prevent drowning. When swimming around natural bodies of water, it’s important to look for hazards including steep drop-offs, strong currents, and poor visibility in the water. If you do not know how to swim or are a weaker swimmer, make sure to swim with a buddy and wear a U.S. Coast Guide-approved life jacket. Moreover, staying alert is key to staying safe—avoid alcohol, drugs, and medications while swimming as it can impair your judgment, balance, and coordination.

Learn more water safety tips for adults at our water safety for everyone page. 

Drowning-related inequities

Drowning does not occur at equal rates for everyone. Drownings and near drownings occur at higher rates for people of color, those born outside the US, and individuals who identify as male.1,2 ​People of Color may be at higher risk of drowning due to the impact of systemic racism on the communities they live in, stemming from racial segregation and the closing of public pools, which reduces access to swimming lessons in these communities.4 Communities of color often the lack of means of transportation in to reach pools or natural bodies of water in neighboring cities and towns which limits continued access to swimming locations.5  Additionally, spaces where swimming takes place are often predominantly white and have the potential to make People of Color feel unwelcome or unsafe in these environments.5  Mental and physical disabilities also increase the risk of drowning. Children with autism experience 160 times the risk of drowning.6  


1.  Drowning Facts | Drowning Prevention | CDC. Published October 26, 2023. Accessed November 8, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/drowning/facts/index.html

2.  Vital Records Data and Publications | Mass.gov. Accessed April 5, 2024. https://www.mass.gov/vital-records-data-and-publications

3.  CHIA DATA. Accessed March 28, 2024. https://www.chiamass.gov/chia-data/

4.  Wilson S, Miller AM, Casson D, Ramos WD. Finding your lane: experiences and beyond for adults learning to swim. BMC Public Health. 2023;23(1):2444. doi:10.1186/s12889-023-17320-0

5.  Haakenstad MK, Butcher MB, Noonan CJ, Fyfe-Johnson AL. Outdoor Time in Childhood: A Mixed Methods Approach to Identify Barriers and Opportunities for Intervention in a Racially and Ethnically Mixed Population. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023;20(24):7149. doi:10.3390/ijerph20247149

6.  Individuals with Autism at Substantially Heightened Risk for Injury Death. Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Published March 21, 2017. Accessed March 14, 2024. https://www.publichealth.columbia.edu/news/individuals-autism-substantially-heightened-risk-injury-death 

Additional resources

Help Us Improve Mass.gov  with your feedback

Please do not include personal or contact information.