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Health Risks

Recreational diving - The latest risk findings

So far, evidence-based risk assessment has been next to impossible for recreational divers. This is about to change, for Munich Re has just concluded an analysis of the findings gained from a comprehensive study. The risk depends on the diver's fitness, age and diving mode.

03.08.2011

So far, evidence-based risk assessment has been next to impossible for recreational divers. Munich Re has just concluded an analysis of the findings gained from a comprehensive study. © Shutterstock

The popularity of diving is on the rise. It has become a relatively affordable sport, and travel operators are offering more and more diving vacations. Even older people are increasingly exploring the underwater world of seas and lakes. Up to now, the only figures published have been absolute fatality rates, and this has made evidence-based risk loadings difficult to calculate. Munich Re has now analysed the risks associated with the sport on the basis of the latest diving fatality rates and has incorporated its findings into MIRA. Munich Re's analysis was performed on the basis of an extensive study conducted by Petar Denoble in 2008. The data used in the study were compiled by the Divers Alert Network (DAN), an insurance organisation with a very large number of members, mainly from the USA and Canada. Altogether, a total of 1,141,367 insurance membership years and 187 fatal diving accidents during the years 2000 to 2006 were analysed. The fatalities were placed in relation to the number of divers, their age and their gender.

Increasing risk with age

The analysis reveals a fatality rate ranging from 0.1‰ for younger divers to 0.4‰ in the older age groups. Transferred to an actuarial life table, and assuming the risk is additional to the basic mortality, these figures do not indicate any significant extramortality among recreational divers. According to the Denoble study, the main cause of death among divers in the over-50 age group is a cardiac event, while drowning ranks highest in the under-50 group. In its current MIRA revision, Munich Re reflects the significantly elevated cardiac risk among divers aged 50 or more. Given the increasing popularity of diving among the elderly, this risk adjustment has been gaining additional importance.

Other risk factors

In addition to age, existing cardiovascular conditions represent a considerable extramortality risk factor. A further study in which Denoble examines the causes of recreational diving accidents suggests an approximately 2.5-fold increase in the risk of a fatal cardiovascular event in individuals with an underlying cardiovascular condition. The evidence of increased risks in divers with multiple influencing factors is taken into account in MIRA as well. Higher risks are also associated with activities such as diving at greater depths, cave diving, ice diving, and wreckdiving. We will provide more information about the risk factors in recreational diving in one of our upcoming MIRA Risk Review issues.

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