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Report shows older Australians at risk of open water drowning
Dramatic new research released by Royal Life Saving Society - Australia highlights the significant and growing issue of drowning in older people in Australia.
The Report, the first of its kind to be released in Australia, found that 1,072 people aged 50 years and over have drowned in Australian waterways between 2002 and 2012.
This represents 36% of all drowning deaths during this period.
The Report, Drowning Deaths in Older People: A 10 year analysis of drowning in people aged 50 years and over in Australia, shows that older men are three times more likely to drown than women with alcohol known to be involved in 37% of all drowning deaths among older people.
In 61% of alcohol-related drownings, the victim recorded a Blood Alcohol Content equal to or above 0.05mg/L.
Royal Life Saving Chief Executive Justin Scarr says “for many people, losing a parent or grandparent to drowning is as tragic as losing a child.
“Similar efforts that were successful in reducing child drowning must now be applied to stop drowning in people over the age of 55 years.”
Underlying medical conditions such as cardiac conditions, epilepsy and dementia are known to increase drowning risk, which is further compounded by the mixing of alcohol with prescribed medications.
In releasing this Report, Royal Life Saving has launched a new campaign, ‘The Talk’ that encourages people to talk to their parents and grandparents about how to reduce their risk of drowning through some s imple safety measures.
Further information can be found on www.royallifesaving.com.au/thetalk.
Scarr states “for many years Royal Life Saving has been urging people to consider the safety of children around water, but what this research shows is that increasingly families should be concerned about preventing drowning in those over the age of 55 years”.
Drowning Deaths in Older People: A 10 year analysis of drowning in people aged 50 years and over in Australia found:
• 1,072 people aged 50 and over drowned in Australian waterways between 1st July 2002 and 30th June 2012.
• 75% of those who drowned were males.
• Alcohol was known to be involved in 37% of drowning deaths among older people. In 61% of alcohol-related drownings, the victim recorded a Blood Alcohol Content equal to or above 0.05mg/L
• Underlying medical conditions were known to be present in 68% of people aged 65 years and over. Common medical conditions that are known to increase the risk of drowning include cardiac conditions, epilepsy and dementia.
• New South Wales recorded 40% (425) of all drowning deaths.
• The Northern Territory recorded the highest rate of drowning per 100,000 population with a rate of 4.56 compared to the National average of 1.63.
• Over one third (35%) of all drowning deaths in people aged 50 and over during the study period took place in inland waterways (rivers, creeks, lakes and dams).
• A further one fifth (20%) occurred in ocean / harbour locations.
• Accidents involving watercraft were the leading activity prior to drowning among older people accounting for 22% of all drowning deaths.
• Accidental falls into water accounted for a further 18% of drowning deaths among older people.
Inland waterways such as rivers, creeks, lakes and dams accounted for the largest proportion of drowning deaths among older people in the study at 35%. Although these locations appear flat and calm, our rivers, lakes and dams are continuing to be deceptively dangerous. Scarr adds “preventing drowning deaths in older people in Australian rivers, creeks and streams will form an important component of Royal Life Saving’s drowning prevention work with communities along the country’s top 10 river drowning black spots.
“We are proud to have the support of the Federal Government in this initiative and we will take this knowledge to expand our prevention efforts to all communities engaging with inland waterways all over the nation.”
Accidents involving watercraft accounted for the largest proportion of drowning deaths in older people, at 22%. These were more common in people aged between 50 and 64 years. Accidental falls into water was the second leading activity prior to drowning in older people, accounting for 18%. Falls into water more commonly occurred in people after retirement (65 years and over).
For further information on The Talk campaign go to www.royallifesaving.com.au/thetalk.
Click here to view Drowning Deaths in Older People: A 10 year analysis of drowning in people aged 50 years and over in Australia.
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