Each year the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), formerly the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, releases a report based on a study about participation in 119 sports, recreation and fitness activities. One of the activities addressed in the study is scuba diving; those findings are published in “Scuba Diving Participation Report 2014.”
The 2014 study is based on 19,240 online interviews of a nationwide sample of both individuals (n=7,528) and households (n=11,712). Demographics of the survey participants included the following:
- 49 percent male, 51 percent female
- 15 percent < age 18, 29 percent > age 65
- 65 percent Caucasian, 14 percent African American, 9 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, 9 percent Hispanic, 3 percent “other”
Ethnic minority groups were slightly oversampled to manage underresponding. The results were calculated based on a U.S. population of 290,001,000 ages 6 and older. Various weighting techniques were applied.
According to this report, 3.174 million Americans (1.1 percent of population) participated in scuba diving once or more in 2013, which is a 14 percent increase over 2012. However, when compared with the average participation over the previous five years, it is only a 0.7 percent increase.
There are 2.351 million casual participants in scuba diving (defined as making between one and seven dives per year) and 823,000 core participants (defined as making eight or more dives per year). Males make up 61 percent of casual and 72 percent of core participants.
Figure 1 shows the age distribution of casual divers versus core participants.
- 62 percent of casual and 56 percent of core participants are between the ages of 25 and 54.
- 29 percent of casual and 22 percent of core participants are younger than age 25.
- 9 percent of casual and 22 percent of core participants are older than 54.
Figure 2 shows the age distribution of participants by gender. Overall, 15 percent of male participants and 8 percent of female participants are over are older than 54.
Forty-one percent of participants have an annual household income of less than $75,000, and 54 percent have a college degree or higher.
While the 16-page report provides a good source of demographic data for scuba diving participation in the U.S., it is missing an estimate of diving exposure. Besides simply distinguishing between casual and core participants based on two ranges of dive totals per year, the report could have provided the actual total number of dives made per diver, which would be a useful denominator for various purposes such as injury statistics.
The complete report can be ordered at https://www.sfia.org/reports/84_Scuba-Diving-Participation-Report-2014