Sauna Deaths in Sweden, 1992–2003

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Deaths from 1992 through 2003 related to sauna bathing in Sweden were collected from a national computer data base comprising all medicolegal autopsies, generating 77 cases included in this study. Of all deaths, 82% were men, most of them middle-aged. The geographic distribution seemed to be roughly related to the population density. Most bathers died on a weekend, and 84% were found dead in a sauna. In 69 cases, the blood alcohol concentration was determined; 49 (71%) of these tested positive, often with high concentrations. In 65 cases, a major disease/state that could explain death was identified; 34 (44%) of these deaths were related to alcohol and 18 (23%) cardiovascular. Other causes of death were drowning, CO poisoning, O2 deprivation, amphetamine intoxication, and burn injuries. In 13 cases, the cause of death remained undetermined. The results indicate that sauna habits in Sweden are similar to those in Finland but probably less common. The most important risk group is middle-aged men, especially those with heavy alcohol consumption. Among the cases found dead in a sauna, all but 2 were found alone. Obviously, bathing alone is a risk factor that can easily be avoided and should perhaps be emphasized more.

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