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Research shows correlation between alcohol consumption and river drownings

Research shows correlation between alcohol consumption and river drownings
November 16, 2016

Alcohol has been a contributing factor in almost half of Australia's river drownings, according to new research.

Following new findings from James Cook University researchers and Royal Life Saving Society Australia, people may think twice before drinking and swimming.

The research paper, published in the journal Science Direct last month, found that within the last 10 years, 40% of people over the age of 18 who drowned in Australian rivers were under the influence of alcohol.

James Cook University Associate Professor Richard Franklin said while the figures were surprising, he was also shocked by the blood alcohol levels being recorded.

Professor Franklin told the ABC “what was really concerning about it is that there were some people with really high levels of blood alcohol content.

"People are very drunk on the rivers.

"Of the group that had a blood alcohol recording, 40% had over .2, so when you think about it on the road it's .05 and we were seeing people .2.

"It's a pretty high number of the people who had been drinking significantly around the rivers."

In addition, the study found that the age group with the highest amount of drowning cases with known alcohol involvement were those aged between 55 to 64.

According to Professor Franklin, people can drown from becoming disorientated.

He explains “if you are swimming under the water and you have been drinking you find it harder to understand, which way is up.

"It's a vasodilator, so what that means is that the blood goes to the external parts of the body so you cool more rapidly, and we know with cooling of the body you lose some muscle strength."

He added that rope swings were also a big hazard, “drinking and going on those can significantly increase your risk of drowning.”

According to the Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report for 2016, there were 280 drownings within the past year.

Professor Franklin conclude “interestingly, for 2015/16 financial year, beaches was slightly higher than rivers, but they are pretty much on par.

"The other thing we saw is that a lot of these (drowning) occurred during the evening and during the early morning, so these are people who have been drinking for a while and then decide to get into the water in dark conditions, which also increases the risk.

"Of course we want people to use the rivers. It's great fun and there's lots of fun activities you can do on it, but we want to make sure people come home at the end of the day."

Click here to view the report in Science Direct.

Members of the community who want more information on water safety and drowning prevention strategies for rivers should go to www.royallifesaving.com.au/respecttheriver 

Image: Warning sign from the South Dubbo Weir, NSW

15th September 2016 - NEW REPORT SHOWS NO IMPROVEMENT IN ANNUAL DROWNING FIGURES

24th March 2016 - ROYAL LIFE SAVING HIGHLIGHTS RIVER SAFETY FOR EASTER LONG WEEKEND 

23rd February 2016 - ROYAL LIFE SAVING WARNS OF DROWNING DANGERS IN INLAND WATER

24th January 2016 - 59 DROWN IN WATERWAYS SINCE START OF DECEMBER

25th October 2015 - MURRAY RIVER THE NUMBER ONE RIVER DROWNING BLACK SPOT IN AUSTRALIA

16th September 2015 - DROWNINGS HIGHLIGHT NEED TO TAKE MORE CARE AROUND WATER


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