Drowning statistics

RoSPA has worked to reduce the number of drownings since the 1950s. We have actively campaigned to improve water safety education and awareness, and for a strategic approach to water safety.

Central to that effort is the monitoring and analysis of drowning events; this helps us to better understand who, where and why a person drowns; this in turn underpins all our prevention activity.

Accidental drowning deaths: 1983 - 2013

Drowning statistics

The RoSPA dataset is now a core contributor to the WAter Incident Database (WAID), which we run in partnership with RNLI, MCA and many other local and national partners.


Year Drownings
1983 637
1984 535
1985 599
1986 563
1987 461
Year Drownings
1988 571
1989 528
1990 496
1991 446
1992 496
Year Drownings
1993 384
1994 448
1995 473
1996 441
1997 440


Year Drownings
1998 568
1999 569
2000 498
2001 430
2002 427
2003 381


Year Drownings
2004 359
2005 435
2006 401
2007 373
2008 376


Year Drownings
2009 405
2010 420
2011 407
2012 371
2013 381

Evolution of our data collection

Original: In 1983, RoSPA set up a system for recording and analysing press reported accidental drownings in the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man).

Amended: From 1997 a joint system with The Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) was adopted. This form of reporting gave a more consistent data set and recorded all the incidents at which there was a police presence. This new collection method resulted in an increase in the total number of drownings recorded.

Experimental: Following the creation of the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) in 2005, RoSPA worked to create a more comprehensive database. Data from 2004 onwards has been classed as experimental – as we have added numerous stakeholders and data sources. This has ultimately led to the creation of the WAter Incident Database (WAID).

The WAID database: WAID is a joint system developed by members of the NWSF to enable greater detail and volume in the collection of data on fatal and non-fatal water-related incidents – reflecting the wider range of harm occurring in and around water. For more information see the WAID Database.

Collection of injury data and surveillance

The collection and use of drowning data is part of a RoSPA effort to re-establish the UK as a world leader in injury surveillance. You can view other sources of UK injury data here.

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