Why you should care
Because drowning is not on the to-do list for summer. Or ever.
It’s summertime! A season to gorge yourself on Popsicles, catch up on your beach reading list and swim to your heart’s content. Unless you’re a guy. Turns out your favorite summertime activity, dear male readers (and no, we’re not talking about the Popsicles), is more dangerous than you think. Downright treacherous, in fact. According to the World Health Organization:
Males make up
of worldwide accidental drownings.
And drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide. There are many reasons why men drown more often than women, says Lorraine Wilson, co-founder of the Dive Spot, a company that teaches water safety lessons. In Third World countries, she says, more men fish or use water transportation than women.
Plus, many people don’t know how to swim or have drowning-prevention skills. According to the WHO, only 1 in 10 drowning victims use a life preserver. “Life vests are kind of like a seat belt to us — you couldn’t get people to do it until you regulated it,” says Henry Fastenau of the Scientific Boating Safety Association. There is a “strong feeling or impression” that boats are safe, he adds. “They’re on water, and water is soft. People assume that driving a boat is like driving a car — easy.” He thinks there’s also a prevailing assumption that life vests are huge and bulky and ugly, when in reality they’ve evolved to be light, thin and arguably easy to wear.
Obliviousness to natural disasters and weather also helps explain the prominence of drowning deaths. Wilson says that in “bad heavy-rain weather” that causes flooding, people can drown “by fooling around and getting swept up in currents.” Most people who drown are within 10 feet of safety, according to Fastenau. “They aren’t able to help themselves, and the people that are with them don’t know what to do.” People may even jump in to attempt a rescue, resulting in two victims instead of one, he says.
But there are two other, usually intertwined reasons for why males tend to drown so very often, and those two are the biggest: alcohol and ego. “Bravado — daring each other to be bold and willing to try something — will be what causes accidents,” says Wilson. “Boys with Jet Skis just trying to have fun” won’t know the consequences until it’s too late. This is such a problem in Sweden, in fact, that there’s a campaign with the amusing but to-the-point name “Don’t Drink and Dive.” A Swedish company called Trygg-Hansa spearheaded the campaign after Sweden experienced 137 drowning accidents in 2014, its highest in 12 years. With such high numbers reported, the members of the three-time world champion Stockholm men’s synchronized swimming team came together to demonstrate how effectively they could perform their routine after drinking.
To no one’s surprise, they could barely keep afloat.