Drowning Risk Highest for Black Males

Reuters, April 21, 2006

NEW YORK—Swimming-pool drowning cases involve a disproportionate number of black boys and young adults, and public pools appear to be the primary danger zone, U.S. government researchers have found.

In one of the most extensive studies to look at the issue, investigators found that nearly half of the swimming-pool drownings they tracked occurred among African Americans—with males being at particular risk.

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It’s not clear why young African Americans, males in particular, are more likely than other racial groups to drown. But the new findings point to the places where prevention efforts are most needed, according to the investigators, led by Dr. Gitanjali Saluja of the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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Overall, three-quarters of the victims were male, and black males were at greatest risk. Their rate of drowning was anywhere from 5 to 12 times higher than that of white males, depending on the age group. Hispanic males were also at greater risk than whites, but the difference was much smaller.

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Researchers have speculated that the higher drowning risk among African Americans has to do with income; lower-income families are less likely to be able to afford swimming lessons. However, Saluja’s team found that the racial discrepancy persisted even when they factored in income. More research, they say, is needed to understand the underlying reasons.

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