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Royal Life Saving report reveals non-fatal drowning incidents are on the rise

Royal Life Saving report reveals non-fatal drowning incidents are on the rise
June 30, 2017

Newly released water safety research shows an alarming rise in non-fatal drowning with 6,158 people hospitalised in Australia as a result of these incidents between 1st July 2002 and 30th June 2015.

The new research by Royal Life Saving Society - Australia, with support from Surf Life Saving Australia and the Australian Government, has identified that non-fatal drowning incidents have increased by 42% since 2002 despite drowning deaths decreasing by 17% over the same period.

The landmark report, A 13 year national study of non-fatal drowning in Australia: Data challenges, hidden impacts and social costs shows that there is an average of 474 people hospitalised for non-fatal drowning each year.

Within these figures, young children aged under four years accounted for 42% of non-fatal drowning incidents. Among children aged under four years, for every fatal drowning, there were over seven non-fatal drowning incidents.

Commenting on the findings, Justin Scarr, Chief Executive of Royal Life Saving and Convenor of the Australian Water Safety Council, stated “it’s alarming that the number of non-fatal drowning incidents in children under five is between five and 14 times higher than any other age group.

Scarr is concerned by the impact on families, the health system and emergency services, adding “many children who survive drowning live with very significant lifelong medical issues, which shortens their life and places great emotional and financial strain on their families.”

Michael Morris knows the devastating impact that non-fatal drowning can have on a family.

His son, Samuel was found on the bottom of their backyard pool when he was two years old. His mother, Jo-ann pulled him from the pool, and with the support of neighbours and emergency services, Samuel survived the tragic accident.

However, Samuel sustained a severe brain injury and, after a brave eight year battle, Samuel passed away in 2014 as a result of his injury.

Michael Morris explains "having a child experience the devastation of a brain injury as a result of a non-fatal drowning has an ongoing and lasting impact on the whole family.

“We essentially lost our little boy twice, firstly the bright and happy little boy he was before his accident and then finally when he died after almost eight years of continuous suffering.

“Hospital became our home away from home, as we dealt with the many complications of Samuel's brain injury and associated disabilities. For too long children like Samuel and families like ours have been the forgotten and invisible part of the drowning problem.”

In 2007 Michael and Jo-ann Morris established the Samuel Morris Foundation, which provides support services to children and their families who are disabled as a result of a non-fatal drowning or other hypoxic brain injuries.

Research partner, Surf Life Saving Australia’s Chief Executive Melissa King says “understanding the magnitude of this issue and impacts to the community and families is critical as is implementing initiatives and strategies that reduce these incidents in the future.

“The work being done by Royal Life Saving and Surf Life Saving is vital in providing evidence based insights that will aid in addressing this issue”.

Concerned by the magnitude of the non-fatal drowning issue, the Australian Water Safety Council has convened a Non-Fatal Drowning Symposium on Friday 30th June 2017.

The Symposium will challenge Industry, Government, private sector and academics to review the latest research, lessons from the field and the human impacts of non-fatal drowning. The event is organised by Royal Life Saving and Surf Life Saving Australia with the support of the Australian Government.

A 13 year national study of non-fatal drowning in Australia: Data challenges, hidden impacts and social costs estimates that the total economic cost of non-fatal drowning averages $188 million per year, including the direct harm from long term disability caused by non-fatal drowning, as well as health care costs, long term care costs and lost economic productivity.

The report suggests that the 5% of incidents leading to long term disability generate 88% of the total costs of non-fatal drowning, with each incident leading to average costs of $6.91 million.

More than a third of non-fatal incidents occurred in swimming pools (36%), including both home swimming pools and public swimming pools. For every drowning death in a swimming pool, there were 4 non-fatal incidents.

Scarr concludes “by gaining a greater understanding of the impact of drowning in Australia, we can determine and compare patterns and trends across key variables, using insights to inform targeted prevention strategies, support services and ongoing evaluation.”

Non-fatal drowning is often reported incorrectly as ‘near-drowning’. This term has been replaced by the World Health Organization. Drowning has three outcomes; fatal, non-fatal drowning where the incident has long term effects, or non-fatal drowning with no long term effects.

The authors were assisted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare who provided non-fatal drowning data from the National Hospital Morbidity Database.

The Australian Government supports both Royal Life Saving and Surf Life Saving, contributing to their efforts to implement the Australian Water Safety Strategy 2016 - 2020.

For more information, a range of drowning prevention resources or to download a copy of the Non-Fatal Drowning Report go to the Royal Life Saving website at www.royallifesaving.com.au

For more information and to download the National Coastal Safety Report visit www.sls.com.au 

Middle image shows Samuel Morris flanked by his parents and Royal Life Saving ambassador Sam Riley prior to his death.

22nd September 2016 - QUEENSLAND COAST SAFE REPORT IDENTIFIES DANGEROUS BEACHES AND OLDER MEN IN DROWNING HAZARDS 

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

28th April 2016 - NEW AUSTRALIAN WATER SAFETY STRATEGY RECOGNISES IMPACTS OF NON-FATAL DROWNING 

23rd December 2015 - QUEENSLAND MULTICULTURAL SURF SAFETY REMINDER IN LEAD-UP TO CHRISTMAS

12th December 2015 - FEDERAL GOVERNMENT COMMITS $5,000 IN SAFETY FUNDING TO EVERY AUSTRALIAN SURF LIFE SAVING CLUB

7th December 2015 - SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTRALIA NATIONAL COASTAL SAFETY REPORT SHOWS RISE IN DROWNING DEATHS 

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

24th December 2014 - UN REPORT SHOWS DROWNING CLAIMS OVER 40 PEOPLE EVERY HOUR IN ‘NEEDLESS LOSS OF LIFE’


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