In the summer’s scorching heat, few activities are more delightful than an outing to the beach or a watering hole. But few activities are also more likely to be a cause of drowning. According to the Ministry of Interior, there were 484 drownings, fatal and non-fatal, from 2014 to 2019.

The drowning cases are classified by the outcomes of survival (304), death (173), and missing (7).

What bodies of water do most drownings occur in? Who is most frequently a victim? Does the ability to swim matter?

The government data on drownings that occurred between 2014 and 2019 can help address these questions. As the data does not account for much of the context, like the numbers of people who visit each body of water, the figures can only provide a partial view of the contributing factors to drowning in Taiwan. But a few trends in the data do present themselves.


The above graph shows the number of drowning incidents by month. It’s not hard to see that the summer is peak season, and July is when these drownings are most likely to occur, with 146 incidents, as it is the hottest month on average.


We can see in the above graph that the ocean (defined as within one kilometer of the coast) is the most common drowning site, with nearly half of all cases. But swimmers shouldn’t let their guard down at the seemingly tame creeks, as the number of drownings (176), represent 36.4% of cases.


Across all ages, drowning victims are more likely to be male. We might understand this as a result of men being less risk-averse than women.

The above graph shows that “members of society” — the Ministry of Interior’s classification for those under 65 and older than typical college students — accounts for the most drownings. Next is college students, perhaps resulting from the greater incidence of going out independently with friends at this age.


Although it’s impossible to know from the data the relationship between swimming ability and the likelihood of drowning, (it could be that more swimmers are more likely to be in situations prone to drowning) the data does suggest that swimming ability is hardly a badge of immunity. The ability to swim may encourage more risky behavior or a complacent attitude toward the risks of drowning.

The data underscores the importance of swimming with companions or some form of supervision and avoiding dangerous conditions.

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TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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