Death in Sauna*


  • *

    Presented in a poster at 16th Nordic Meeting of Forensic Sciences in Turku, Finland, June 15–17, 2006

Additional information:
Anu Kenttämies, M.D., Ph.D.
Senior Medical Examiner
State Provincial Office of Southern Finland
P.O. Box 40
00014 University of Helsinki


Abstract:  Bathing in sauna is common in Finland, where there are approximately 2 million saunas among the population of 5.2 million. In this paper, deaths occurring while in a sauna in 1990–2002 in Finland were studied by analyzing police and forensic autopsy reports, death certificates, and toxicological results. The annual rate of death occurring while in a sauna was less than 2 per 100,000 inhabitants. Close to half (51%) of the cases were determined to be natural deaths and exposure to heat was the cause of death in 25%. Overall, 50% of all cases were under the influence of alcohol. The main conclusion is that death in the sauna is a rare event even in Finland where the frequency of sauna bathing is high. The role of alcohol as a risk factor has grown. The prevention of these deaths should focus on less drinking of alcohol and avoid leaving a drunken bather alone in the sauna.