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Drowning is a leading killer of Chinese youths

Reuters/China Daily
Cooling down.
By Zheping Huang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Water is second only to cars in claiming young people’s lives in China, a recent study finds.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington published Tuesday (May 10) its latest report on adolescent health. The study finds that, globally, the top four causes of death for youngsters aged 10 to 24 are road injuries, self-harm, violence, and tuberculosis.

But in China, drowning has become the second-leading killer among youth. In 2013, drowning was the number one cause of death for Chinese aged 10 to 14, with 5,526 such deaths reported that year. Overall, it killed 14,448 Chinese young people aged 10 to 24 in 2013, second only to road injuries.

Globally, drowning accounted for 6.7% of deaths for children aged 10 to 14 in 2013, but 33% in China. Drowning deaths often occur in summertime—and commonly in rural areas—when Chinese adolescents swim in rivers without parental supervision, according to Chinese media reports (link in Chinese).

Drowning deaths are not unique to China. In 2013, it was also the number one cause of death among 10- to 14-year-olds in Indonesia and Russia, and it is relatively common in Western Pacific countries, according to IHME.

A 2014 WHO report (pdf) found 372,000 people die from drowning each year, and 90% of those deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Drowning is a “neglected public health issue,” the WHO said, and it called on governments to take low-cost measures such as installing barriers to control access to water.

IHME studied health, disability, and death in young people in 188 countries between 1990 and 2013, and found their health had not significantly improved, compared to other age groups. Because “adolescence is generally thought to be the healthiest time of life,” young people’s health attracts too few resources, a Lancet Commission report published alongside the IHME study said.

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