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266 Swimming ability and drowning prevention – do they have something in common? A Nordic case study
  1. Riitta Vienola1,
  2. Hafthor B Gudmundsson2,
  3. Kristiina Heinonen3
  1. 1Arcada, University of Applied Sciences, Finland
  2. 2Iceland University of Education, Iceland
  3. 3Finnish Swimming Teaching and Lifesaving Federation


Background In 1996 the Nordic Countries defined the term swimming ability. A person can be said to be able to swim when he, after being immersed in water, can swim continuously for 200 metres, of which at least 50 m on backstroke. Since then the countries have been collecting data concerning swimming ability statistics. Drownings are one of the leading causes of death worldwide (WHO 2015). The first poster concerning the topic was presented in the World Conference on Drowning Prevention in Potsdam in 2013. The updated data will be presented in 2016 aiming to find correlation between swimming ability and drowning rates (1996–2016) within the Nordic Countries.

Methods Each country has been collecting their own data. There is variation in data collecting methods. Data has been collected in different years (2011–2013) depending on country-specific policies. A table has been created to clarify the findings.

Results The highest rates in swimming ability came from Iceland, 95% of the children and 96% of the adults can swim and the lowest rates came from Norway, 50%, no data available for adults. (Sweden 92%, no data for adults; Denmark 79/66%; Finland 72/68%). The highest drowning rates came from Finland, 2.3/100,000 and the lowest from Iceland 0.62 (Denmark 1.3, Norway 1.03, Sweden 0.84). There are some indications of a correlation between swimming ability and low drowning rates.

Conclusions The swimming ability of a nation seems to play an important role for drowning prevention but there are other important factors (e.g. alcohol abuse, cultural differences, falling through the ice) not related to swimming ability. However, these other factors related to drownings do not decrease the importance of swimming ability, vice versa. The co-operation within the Nordic Countries is special and needs to be emphasised more. While the rest of the world is having difficulties in defining swimming ability and self-rescue skills, a closer look at the Nordic numbers is recommended.

  • Swimming ability
  • Drowning prevention
  • Nordic Countries
  • Correlations

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