Non-fatal drowning


In non-fatal drowning, the respiratory impairment is stopped before death. Non-fatal drowning can result in a range of outcomes, from no injuries to serious injuries or permanent disability.

While drowning is often thought of as fatal, there are in fact many more non-fatal drownings than drowning deaths each year. People who experience a non-fatal drowning may face serious health issues as a result, often for the rest of their lives.

Non-fatal drowning data is required to describe the true burden of drowning.

Non-fatal drowning
categorization framework

The DPRC is working with global experts on a categorization framework for non-fatal drowning. This will enable more comprehensive reporting on non-fatal drowning and contribute to a better understanding of the full burden of drowning. With this framework, the severity of non-fatal drowning can be categorized based on the degree of respiratory impairment, and morbidity (decline from previous functional capacity) caused by the non-fatal drowning. The following draft framework is currently being tested and refined.


Non-fatal drowning categorization framework(NDCF)
Severity of respiratory impairment after the drowning process stopped
Mild impairment
  • Involuntary distressed coughing AND
  • Fully alert
Moderate impairment
  • Sustained difficulty breathing AND/OR
  • Disoriented but conscious
Severe impairment
  • Not breathing
  • Unconscious
Morbidity category (based upon any decline from previous functional capacity) at the time of measurement
No morbidity
  • No decline
Some morbidity
  • Some decline
Severe morbidity
  • Severe decline