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Rising drowning deaths coincide with record summer temperatures

Rising drowning deaths coincide with record summer temperatures
September 16, 2019

Figures published today by Royal Life Saving Society - Australia and Surf Life Saving Australia show that 276 people drowned across Australia from July 2018 to June 2019, representing a 10% increase on the previous year.

Of these, 123 deaths (45%) occurred over the summer period, which is a 17% increase compared with the 10‐year average.

Overall, 101 drowning deaths occurred in inland waterways and 31 in swimming pools. There were 122 coastal drowning deaths, which includes 71 on beaches, 22 at rock/cliff locations and 18 offshore. Over 80% of total drowning deaths were male.

Published in the annual national reports of Royal Life Saving and Surf Life Saving, the research findings also highlight:

• An estimated 584 hospitalisations in the past year occurred as a result of non‐fatal drowning incidents across Australia
• Drowning among children aged under four years decreased by 30%, compared with the 10‐year average
• Risk‐taking behaviour, often involving alcohol and drugs, as well as poor swimming ability continue to impact drowning rates
• Coastal drowning deaths in the past year were above the 15‐year average of 110 drowning deaths per year

Released today at Parliament House in Canberra, Royal Life Saving Chief Executive, Justin Scarr stated “as the weather warms up, we all share a responsibility to keep our children, family and friends safe around water. Simple safety measures can make all the difference between a great day out and a tragedy.”

Surf Life Saving Chief Executive, Adam Weir added “Australians visit to the coast for enjoyment and fun, yet over the years too many times have these visits turned into tragedy despite the significant efforts of surf lifesavers. Surf Life Saving’s National Coastal Safety Report highlights a continued need for all to adopt a STOP, LOOK, PLAN approach to water safety.”

With the support of the Australian Government, Royal Life Saving and Surf Life Saving continue to work with the Australian Water Safety Council and local communities to prevent drowning across the country.

Key findings - Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2019

• Rivers accounted for 29% of all drowning deaths, more than any other location
• Swimming and recreating was the most common activity being undertaken at the time of drowning, followed by a fall into water and boating
• 63% of drowning deaths of children aged 0 to 4 years occurred in swimming pools
• 45 people aged 15 to 24 years drowned, which represents a 61% increase on the previous year. 15% of people who drowned were aged 45 to 54 years, the most of any age group
• 60 people aged over 65 years drowned, which represents an 18% increase compared with the previous year. Pre‐existing medical conditions were found to be a risk factor in 40% of these deaths
• There was a 39% increase in multiple fatality events, that is where multiple people drowned in one incident, compared with the 10‐year average

Key findings - Surf Life Saving National Coastal Safety Report 2019

• 122 coastal drowning fatalities, a 14% increase compared to 2017/18
• Swimming/wading (35%) was the most common activity being undertaken at time of drowning, followed by boating and personal watercraft (PWC) (14%), watercraft (8%) and snorkelling (7%)
• Males continue to be significantly overrepresented in coastal drowning data with 87% being male for 2018/19
• 42% of coastal drowning deaths occurred during the months of summer (December to February)
• Most coastal drowning deaths occurred at the beach (58%) followed by rock or cliff locations then offshore
• The highest number of coastal drowning deaths for 2018/19 were aged 20‐24 years
• Rip currents have contributed to 25% of coastal drowning deaths since 2004

The Surf Life Saving National Coastal Safety Report 2019 can be viewed at

The Royal Life Saving Society - Australia National Drowning Report 2019 is available in full at

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