As we step into a new year, we finally have a full set of drowning statistics for 2021. Today, we’ll examine the drowning stats for December 2021… but we will also take a grander look at this past year.

U.S. Drowning Stats for December 2021

Total Aquatic Programming has been sharing statistics and maps about nationwide drownings for 11 years. The chart below will explore the drowning stats for the month of December for each year, going back to 2009.

The monthly drowning stats, over time, can help to point out trends of hazardous behavior. To this end, they often show areas in which additional water safety education is required.

Besides location and age, there are many factors that go into these statistics. Today, we will compare last month’s data with data from each December month from the past 12 years.

Using this info, Total Aquatic Programming’s data tracks more than 15 separate items from every drowning that occurs throughout the country. 

These items include, but are not limited to:

  • date
  • state
  • city
  • county
  • age and gender of the victim
  • ethnicity, if recorded
  • body of water in which the drowning occurred
  • and several other circumstances that can help to provide some guidance in the prevention of future drownings.

Chart: Drowning Statistics for December 2009-2021

Overall, the drowning stats for December 2021 are not ideal. To be sure, they are lower than most years on record. However, there has been an increase in total drownings over most years, including December 2020. Of course, that year saw a steep decline from the year before, which was among the worst recorded.

December 2021 drowning stats

One potential reason for the slight rise in drowning incidents this year could be the fact that much of the country saw a warmer December than usual. Keeping that in mind, it is quite easy to see how more people would be out on boats or even swimming longer than expected. Additionally, if a body of water froze over, it may have been unstable for someone trying to walk or skate on it.

December 2021 graph

Adults seem to have seen the steepest rise between the two years. While the culprit may have included hot tubs and boating incidents, one cannot forget the annual polar bear swims that happen this time of year. Of course, in the case of Polar Bear events, those tend to have multiple lifeguards on duty. Chances are high that these were relatively safe!

Looking Back Through the Years

Beyond the drowning stats for December 2021, let’s zoom out even further. As mentioned in the introduction, Total Aquatic Programming has also provided an overview of the yearly drowning stats. These number stretch back all the way to 2009.

Like the month of December, 2021 wasn’t the worst year on record in any category. That said, it certainly wasn’t the best. In fact, there have been quite a few more drownings this year versus the past few years.

Drowning Stats Summary 2021

Now, there could be a number of reasons for this increase. First of all, let’s address the pandemic. As you probably know all too well, 2020 was a strange year for many of us. Closed pools and lockdowns meant that a lot of people would not be spending time in the water. In 2021, things opened up quite a bit more. Perhaps people felt safer bringing their kids to the pool. This may account for the marked increase in drownings for children aged four and under.

Similarly, adults may have been taking more risks as society reopened. The jump from 1,437 to 1,568 drowning incidents is a hefty increase. People could have stepped outside of general safety rules in wild attempts to get back in the water. Obviously, this can be quite dangerous, as the numbers clearly show.

That said, for the last 12 years, if drownings were increasing at the same rate as population growth, they would be 16% higher than they are. Keeping that in mind, these drowning stats may not be as bleak as they seem.

Learning More about These Stats

All of these U.S. Drowning Stats and graphics are brought to us courtesy of Sue and Mick Nelson of Total Aquatic Programming, LLC. USA Swimming, the national governing body for competitive swimming in the United States, also uses this information.

If you are interested in learning more about the people behind this data, watch our full Child Safety Source interview with Mick Nelson. Additionally, you can visit Total Aquatic Programming’s official website.