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CDC finds drowning deaths on the rise in the U.S.

Drowning is the number one cause of death in children 1-4 years old

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By Bill Carey

WASHINGTON — Drowning deaths are increasing in the United States after decades of decline.

From 2020 to 2022, more than 4,500 people drowned annually, 500 more per year than in 2019, according to a new CDC Vital Signs study.

In the latest report, CDC experts examined drowning deaths, self-reported swimming skills, participation in swimming lessons and exposure to recreational water.

The greatest increases in drowning deaths were seen among high-risk groups: children aged 1-4, adults 65+ and Black people of all ages.

According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of death for U.S. children aged 1-4. There was a 28% increase in drowning deaths reported in this age group in 2022 compared to 2019.

The study noted that approximately one-half (54.7%) of U.S. adults reported never having taken a swimming lesson.

“No one should have to lose a loved one to drowning. Improving access to effective prevention strategies, like basic swimming and water safety skills training, can reduce drowning risk,” Tessa Clemens, Ph.D., a health scientist in CDC’s Division of Injury Prevention and lead author of the report said. “CDC provides expertise, support, and resources to increase drowning prevention efforts among communities and individuals at highest risk of drowning.”

CDC Vital Signs findings can help shape solutions at local, state, and federal levels to prevent drowning tragedies.