Drowning in Israel: 1990-1992
R. Goldman, G. Kaplan, R. Gurvich, V. Barell
Pediatric Division, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer; and Health Services Research Unit, Israel Ministry of Health
There are no epidemiolostudies of drowning in Israel in the scientific literature, despite prominent reports in the media. We analthe extent of mortality from drowning in Israel during 1990-92, attempting to identify and characterize groups at high risk, and to determine trends and differences between Israel and other countries. Computerized death certificate files were provided by the Israel government Central Bureau of Statistics; deaths from drowning were included among external causes codes E-830, 832, E-910, E-954, E-964, E-984.
In Israel, as in the United States, mortality from drowning is the fourth cause of death among all unintentional causes, and the second cause in age-groups 1-24, ranking after transport accidents. During 1990-92 there were 1.2 drownings a year/100,000 population. The highest rates were found among young non-Jews 15-24 years old (7.8/100,000) and among elderly Jews (3.5/100,000). Unintentional drowning accounted for 89% of all deaths; while about 10% were defined as suicides. Males had a rate almost 3 times greater than females, and the among Arabs was 2.4 times greater than among Jews. The 1990-92 drowning rate was slightly lower than in previous years.
Drowning rates in Israel are lower than in the United States, except in the elderly. Apparently the principal reason for this difference is difference in sites of drowning. In Israel most drownings occur in the sea, so site data are unavailable for international comparisons. Careful consideration of the categories (E-codes) included in the rates, and of local registration procedures, is necessary for international comparisons.
Foreign workers, tourists and other nonresidents are not included in national vital statistics. But estimations based on Ministry of Interior sources show that foreign workers (most, recent arrivals) during the last few years are an extremely high risk group. Population-based drowning rates are not an accurate estimation of drowning risk, since universal exposure to the "opportunity to drown" is assumed.