Is Scuba Diving Dangerous?

Is Scuba Diving Dangerous?

The human spirit is adventurous. However, a lot of the adventures or activities that we partake in have certain dangers. With that in mind, it is incredible how the human being can face their fears when doing these dangerous activities.

Today we are going to take a look at whether or not scuba diving is dangerous.

Scuba-diving most definitely does have its risks. At the end of the day, you are submitting yourself to the will of the ocean. So, yes scuba diving can be dangerous but not much more dangerous than most other activities. In fact, the death rate can be comparable to driving a car.

In this article, we are going to take a look at six of the most common risks that you might encounter while scuba diving.

We will then talk about whether or not diving is bad for your lungs and how many dives per year turn out to be fatal.

So, for everything you need to know about the dangers of scuba diving, keep reading.

What Are The Risks Of Scuba Diving?

In the opening of this article we already established that yes, scuba diving can be dangerous.

So, in this section, I think we should take a look at the most common risks that you might encounter while scuba diving.

The purpose of this article is not to scare you away from scuba diving.

I hope that it encourages you to speak to a diving school about getting started. Once you know the risks of something, you will be better prepared.

Well, at least that is how I see it. 

With that being said, if you are a beginner, the best way to avoid these risks is to get certified through a reputable diving School. Also, remember to always use the buddy system that is taught within each course.

Let’s take a look at a brief list of these risks and then we will go into more detail regarding each risk.

  • Faulty equipment
  • The Bends
  • Narcosis
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Getting lost
  • Entanglement

1. Faulty Equipment

Look, if you are a new scuba diver or you have been doing it for a while, you need to get the right equipment.

Please do not mistake my previous statement as me trying to tell you to get expensive equipment because that is not what I mean.

Let’s talk about the possibility of your equipment malfunctioning.

It can happen in almost any sport whether it be surfing, scuba diving, or dirt bike riding.

Sometimes, your equipment fails.

This is one of the reasons why it is so important not to go scuba diving on your own. If something happens to your equipment during your dive, a buddy can come in and help you.

In terms of what equipment you should get, try and get equipment from reputable manufacturers.

Speak to other divers and find out what they are using. The best people to speak to are dive instructors and those that work within the industry. 

Scuba diving tank, BCD and regulators

2. The Bends

If you are doing deep dives, it is possible to get “the bends” also known as decompression sickness (DCS). It is also very important that you do not get onto a plane for at least 18 hours after scuba diving.

If you rise to the surface too quickly, the concentration of Nitrogen and other gasses from your oxygen cylinder will start to bubble.

It has to do with the sudden change in pressure. In the article that we linked above, we do go in-depth into what decompression sickness is.

Here is a great video from TED-Ed. They explain not only the bends but also the effects of underwater pressure.

3. Nitrogen Narcosis

I know, it sounds like the title of a movie.

However, nitrogen narcosis is a serious thing for divers who generally dive quite deep. Even though it is referred to as nitrogen narcosis, it stems from a lot of the gases in an oxygen tank.

As the concentration of these gases start to increase within your bloodstream and the deeper you go, there is a chance that you can start to suffer from nitrogen narcosis.

The symptoms will start with dizziness, fatigue, cognitive decline, and eventually, unconsciousness.

While a mild onset of nitrogen narcosis is not fatal per se, it is what happens if you pass out while in the water.

Again, try and always have a dive buddy with you.

4. Pre-existing Conditions

I don’t even know where to start with this one.

There are so many pre-existing conditions that can hamper your scuba diving experience. I will give you a list of pre-existing conditions that you should watch out for if you have any of them.

I wouldn’t say you should not scuba dive but rather speak to a professional instructor and your doctor.

The best example I can think of is asthma.

Now, you would think that having an oxygen tank means asthma should be no problem. The problem is because the oxygen is dry, cold, and contains other gases. This could irritate your lungs and trigger your asthma.

Please note, don’t immediately be put off scuba diving if you have one of these conditions.

More and more people with these conditions are diving successfully.

A lot of scuba diving associations have included protocols that have allowed them to cater to divers with certain conditions.

If you have asthma, any cardiovascular issues, and/or diabetes, consult your doctor. You can also speak to scuba diving associations and see if they cater to you. 

5. Getting Lost

This might seem a little bit silly.

However, it is possible to get lost while diving. Even if you are with the group, you can get lost. You might have a small lapse in concentration, leave your group or simply stop swimming and the current might pull you away.

This is most common when you are diving in an area that has lots of structures and lots of sea life.

6. Underwater Entanglement

This is the main reason divers should always carry a dive knife while diving. However, it is rare that you’ll ever have to use it (as long as you are being sensible!

In all of the dives I have made, I’ve never had to use my dive knife, but there are things that may ensnare you.

Old fishing lines and nets, rope and large algae like Kelp are the usual culprits. If you get entangled it will usually be around the lose parts of your gear and maybe only very minor to start with.

However, they can become worse if you struggle against them.

If you have a dive buddy with you (as you ALWAYS should have) they can help you or you can use your diver knife to cut the entanglement away.

Scuba diver in thick suit in the blue

Is Scuba Diving Bad For Your Lungs?

We did briefly touch on the fact that if you have asthma you can irritate your lungs while scuba diving. Some more serious lung conditions can occur if you do not practice caution while diving.

Barotrauma happens if you rise to the surface too quickly.

The air within your lungs will expand and you can cause damage to the tissue of your lungs.

However, it is important to remember that this will only happen if you do not follow the rules and instructions of your diving certification or diving instructor.

Other than that, scuba diving is not bad for your lungs.

How Many Scuba Divers Die Each Year?

In North America, approximately 100 people die each year while scuba diving.

You can double that number when you account for divers who die outside of North America. So, in total, about 200 people die each year.

At first, that may seem like a lot but it is important to remember that there are millions of certified scuba divers in the world.

In fact, according to PADI, they have issued over 27 million certifications since 1967.

When you compare the number of scuba diving incidents with most other activities, scuba diving is one of the safest “dangerous” activities around. Most incidents happen due to human error.

What Are The Odds Of Dying While Scuba Diving?

The odds of a scuba dive turning out to be fatal is approximately 1.2 for every 100,000 dives.

As I mentioned above, that is not a lot when you compare scuba diving with other activities. So, I would say that if you want to start diving, don’t let fear stop you.

In fact, we have written a recent article about the fears of scuba diving. In this article, we have a section called “how to get over your fears of scuba diving”. I highly recommend giving the article a read.

Don’t Forget Your Dive Insurance!

Before you go out on any dive trip or holiday, it is essential to make sure you have insurance that covers you if something goes wrong. Check out our dive insurance article for more information.

Or go straight to these dive insurance company websites:


Diver Alert Network (DAN)

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To be completely honest with you, I would never advise you to go scuba diving alone. I would also never advise that you go scuba diving without the proper certifications.

If you follow the rules of your certification, I would say that scuba diving is perfectly safe.

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Is Scuba Diving Dangerous? FAQs

Paul Fulbrook

Paul Fulbrook is a writer, scuba diver, ex-science teacher and marine biologist. He has a passion for coral reef biology, diving on coral reefs and writing about diving. He also loves cats and his children (sometimes).

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