The epidemiology and prevention of drowning in Singapore

Singapore Med J. 2004 Jul;45(7):324-9.


Introduction: The aim of this study was to derive a profile of drowning victims in Singapore in the 10-year period 1992-2001 and determine if there are any patterns, trends or factors which may affect the risk profile of victims. Another objective was to recommend measures for reducing deaths from drowning through a review of some of the current literature and studies on drowning prevention.

Methods: Data for epidemiological analysis were studied and analysed. Data was primarily obtained from the annual drowning statistics reported in the annual reports of the Singapore Life Saving Society, which were in turn obtained from the Registry of Births and Deaths, and the Coroner's Court. The review of current literature and studies on drowning was concentrated on the publications of leading drowning experts and agencies and on the papers presented at two important international conferences, the International Drowning Symposium in May 1996 and the first World Congress on Drowning in June 2002. The review was done with a view to identify successful drowning prevention measures that may be adopted or enhanced in Singapore.

Results: The study revealed a few important findings. Firstly, Singapore had a drowning rate per 100,000 population that varied from a low of 0.88 in one year to a high of 1.72 in another in the period 1992-2001. Secondly, the male drowning mortality rate in Singapore was much higher than the female drowning mortality rate. Thirdly, persons in the age group of 20-29 years were at the highest risk. Fourthly, the sea, rivers and swimming pools were the locations with the highest number of drowning victims. The study also showed that the main measures of drowning prevention may be broadly divided into supervision, environmental design changes, legislation, swimming lessons and aquatic safety education.

Conclusion: The situation in Singapore is generally comparable to that in high income or developed countries although there are some differences. Further studies and research need to be done to provide a better understanding of the epidemiology and prevention of drowning in Singapore. In the meantime, the main measures of drowning prevention should, as far as possible, be followed or enhanced.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drowning / epidemiology*
  • Drowning / prevention & control*
  • Environment Design
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity
  • Public Facilities
  • Risk
  • Safety
  • Sex Factors
  • Singapore / epidemiology
  • Swimming / education
  • Time Factors