Thursday. 12.12.2019
El tiempo

More drowning deaths in the land of thousands of lakes

According to preliminary figures, in July Finland registered 20 cases of death by accidental drowning. Six children under the age of 15 lost their lives so far this summer. Experts recommend to avoid distractions such as the use of mobile phones while supervising children near water.

A man swimming. Photo: Julia Joppien.
A man swimming. Photo: Julia Joppien.
More drowning deaths in the land of thousands of lakes

Summer is the time of year when thousands of people rush to enjoy the beaches, swimming pools and lakes in all countries. The bitter face of this is the amount of drowning deaths, which also increase in all the European Union (EU) at the time when people are more likely to take a bath.

Finland, with its warm summer temperatures combined with tens of thousands of lakes, has more accidental deaths of this kind than the European average. The figures recorded so far indicate that this will also be a summer with a high number of drownings. 

According to preliminary data collected by the Finnish Association for Swimming Education and Life Saving (SUH), 20 people were killed in July. Of those the drownings, 10 occurred while swimming, two in waterborne traffic and for the remaining eight cases the course of events is not clear yet.

The preliminary statistics collected by SUH also show that 64 people have died in the period January-July. This number is higher than last year's when there were 58 drownings at the time.

High number of children

Exceptionally, this year there is also a high number of children that have been killed during the summer: "Six children under the age of 15 have lost their lives between the end of May and the present", explains SUH.

"Finland spends a lot of time by the water in the summer. Most children are naturally interested in and enjoy playing with water. Water is, at its best, a wonderful element that the whole family can enjoy, as long as you remember to take safety into account. Early learned and regularly maintained water skills and attitudes prevent water-related injuries", says Niko Nieminen, Communications Specialist at the Finnish Swimming Association.

"Children, especially those chattering and playing on the beach, should be supervised unceasingly and close enough, preferably at arm's length. Drowning usually happens quietly and very quicklyFor example, if you look at a cell phone or a book, you may miss out on the fateful situation", Nieminen reminds. This expert recommends children to use of life jackets when swimming near summer cottages and adults to agree who is responsible for child supervision at any time.

The statistical office of the EU (Eurostat) has published the latest harmonized data for all Member States on deaths caused by accidental drowning and submersion. And those figures show that

In 2016 there were in the whole European Union 5,537 cases of accidental death by drowning and submersion, a figure still high but which according to Eurostat has been falling each year since a peak of 6,090 deaths in 2013. On average terms, the numbers show that in 2016 there were 1.08 deaths by drowning per 100,000 inhabitants in the EU28.Drowning-deaths

Variations among Member States

But data of drowning deaths also vary among the EU Member States. In 2016, the highest rates of such deaths were recorded in Lithuania and Latvia. These two small states located in the Baltic sea coast had 6.4 and 6.1 deaths per 100,000 residents, respectively.

They are followed, in the ranking of countries with more drownings, by Romania (3.18 deaths per 100,000 residents), Estonia (3.08 deaths) and Greece (2.45 deaths). Next comes Slovakia with 2.35 deaths, a rate surprisingly high for a country located in the interior of the continent, without any sea coast.

Finland, with 1.53 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants recorded, is also above the EU average, as is Croatia, Bulgaria, Poland, Ireland , France, Slovenia, Hungary and Cyprus.

Unequal distribution by sex

The Finnish figures show a very unequal distribution by sex: while the drowning rate among Finnish women is 0.47 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, among men it is 2.47 cases per 100,000 residents. That greater propensity to drown of men -in statistical terms- is a constant that is repeated in all countries.

In contrast, the lowest rates of deaths by submersion were recorded in Italy (0.38 deaths per 100,000), Malta (0.39) and Portugal (0.43). Below the EU average rate are also the United Kingdom, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium, Spain and Sweden.

Outside the European Union, Norway is clearly above the EU average with 1.4 deaths per 100,000 residents. Serbia registered a similar result than the EU average, while Turkey is below the EU average, though numbers are not entirely comparable because the Turkish definition differs from the EU's, Eurostat says.

*Graphic source: Eurostat