Suicide by drowning: A 20-year review

Darren P. Wirthwein, Jeffrey J. Barnard, Joseph A. Prahlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Drowning as a method of suicide is known to occur, but has primarily been described in environments with readily available access to water, such as coastal regions. In this study, we describe and analyze a series of suicidal drownings occurring in a noncoastal area of Texas. Between 1977 and 1996, 52 cases of suicidal drowning were investigated at the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas, Texas. Such deaths accounted for only 0.85% of all suicides and 4% of all drowning deaths. In contrast, suicidal drownings reportedly account for 2.8 to 8.9% of all suicides in regions with easy access to water. As with other studies of suicidal drowning, the victims are usually sober white males over the age of 40 years. Our results also confirm that certain individuals who commit suicide by drowning use weights to facilitate the process. A detailed analysis of the cases is provided, as is a synopsis of several questions that may aid in determining the manner of death in suicidal drowning cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-136
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 31 2002


  • Drowning
  • Forensic science
  • Manner of death
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Genetics


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