The feeling of weightlessness swimmers feel in the water is often taken for granted, but it’s one of the many joys the sport of swimming has to offer humanity. Unfortunately, many adults and children will never experience this sensation. Knowing how to swim may be a life skill, but more than half of the global population does not know how to swim. Globally, there are at least 4 billion people who can’t swim.
According to the World Health Organization, there are an estimated 372,000 annual drowning deaths worldwide every year. Drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury deaths and account for 7% of all injury-related deaths globally. Beyond the detriment this faces society, there’s also an increasingly negative economic impact. For example, in the United States alone, coastal drowning costs are nearly $300 million every year, and this number is in the billions globally.
For those who learned how to swim in a structured class or from their parents, these numbers sound shocking and unfathomable. Ultimately it’s a lack of awareness, education, and access. A few of these are outlined below, but they’re just the start.

  • Age – this relationship is often associated with a lapse in supervision. Globally the highest drowning rates are among children 1-4 years, followed by children 5-9 years.
  • Gender – Males are twice as likely as females to drown. This is due to increased exposure to water and riskier behavior.
  • Access to Water – People who live near open water sources, such as ditches, ponds, irrigation channels, or pools are especially at risk.
  • Flood Disasters – drowning accounts for 75% of deaths in flood disasters, and these are becoming more frequent around the world.

While more than 90% of drowning occurs in low-and middle-income countries, the middle and upper class are not immune. In the United States, 45% of drowning deaths are among the most economically active segment of the population. There are 10 people who drown every day in the United States.
How To Help
It starts with community-based education with an emphasis on safety. Teaching school-age children basic swimming, water safety and safe rescue skills can reduce risk and has other proven health benefits.
The Swimming Saves Lives Foundation, U.S. Masters Swimming’s charitable arm, has declared April “Adult Learn-to-Swim Month.” The organization connects people to the resources they need that save lives by preventing drowning, and by providing you with the skills needed to make swimming for fitness part of a long-term healthy lifestyle.
If you’re looking to support learn-to-swim programs, please visit the USA Swimming Foundation.
There are over 10,000,000 swimming pools around the world. Let’s see what we can do to make sure everyone has he opportunity to experience the feeling of weightlessness in the water!
SEE ALSO: 5 Years, 5,000 Kids Can Now Swim!
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  3. Hi,
    I have a new swim progression with 100% success with adults, children and people with unique learning styles proven for 4 years at the YMCA and now expanding to summer camps.
    Here is a short edit with 2 minutes of instructional process, 1.5 minutes of a class for autistic, dyslexic, ADHD, easily distracted or easily excited children, and 1.5 minutes of motivational video for beginner swimmers to see the fun of water sports once their comfort level in water is achieved.
    This video edit is proof of concept, not the finished product for instructor training.
    The American Camping Association directors are looking at the new program which dovetails nicely with the debut of surfing in the 2020 Olympics to excite kids at summer camps.
    This is the link – Swim 2 Surf Adaptive Instructor Training
    Stein Erik Gabrielsen

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  9. Diana Hoffman on

    Thanks for raising this topic. I had never thoughts that adults cannot swim – until my teenag daughter went on a canoe and camping trip. The school checked that all kids could swim. But they did not tell the parents that not all teachers could swim. My daughter`s teacher had never learnt it and was really embarassed about it.

    Stats show that only 2 percent of all adults will take swimming lessons this summer.

    So how do we encourage adults to learn swimming without being ashamed? Any ideas?

  10. If swim lessons were free for all, I’m sure more people would know how to swim. It’s a pretty entitled way to think that every one has access to swim suits, goggles, caps, goggles, towels and a pool (or safe lake, or ocean access). Swimming is not cheap. I’m an adult, grew up inv lolUSA. My family is not a swimming family. Therefore I never learned. I’m taking classes now as an adult and it’s certainly not cheap.

    • You’re right, it’s not cheap. But there are other sports that cost up as well in order to keep up with equipment and training.

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