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Youth Swimming Ability and Associated Factors in the United States, 2010-17

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Learning to swim is recommended for children to prevent drowning and to promote lifelong physical activity. Dissimilar US youth swimming ability rates by demographics have been reported. Our research purpose was to examine youth swimming ability by selected variables, and to compare with similar research in 2010.


USA Swimming Foundation sponsored a cross-sectional study in 5 US cities during 2017. Trained YMCA personnel administered surveys measuring self-reported swimming ability among youth, ages 4-18 (N = 1373). We compared the 2017 results with findings from the 2010 study (N = 1741).


In 2017, fewer respondents reported no/low swimming ability. However, groups were identified with a high percentage (greater than 50%) of no/low swimming ability including the following ones; girls, African-American boys and girls, and boys and girls who participate in free or reduced-cost lunch programs. Multivariate analysis showed that significant predictors for lower swimming ability were parent education (less than college education), qualifying for free or reduced-cost lunch programs, and being African-American.


No/low swimming ability groups were identified and continue to need support. Interventions should target children who are African-American, qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch, and have parents with lower levels of education.
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Keywords: health disparities; injury prevention; physical activity; swimming; youth health

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2018

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  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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