Royal Life Saving drowning report released

Until now, national data and an understanding of the extent of non-fatal drownings in Australia have been limited due to fatal drowning being the focus of the drowning prevention community. The recently released landmark report, “A 13 year national study of non-fatal drowning in Australia: Data challenges, hidden impacts and social costs”, by Royal Life Saving Australia with the support of Surf Life Saving Australia and the Australian Government, aims to increase the understanding of the full burden of drowning in Australia by providing national data around non-fatal drowning hospitalisations.

The report reveals that in Australia, between 1 July 2002 and 30 June 2015, there were 6,158 people hospitalised due to a non-fatal drowning incidents. These hospitalisations numbers indicate that over the study period there were 2.78 non-fatal drowning incidents for every fatal drowning, highlighting the significant contribution that non-fatal drownings have on the collective drowning incident numbers.

Accounting for 66.1% of all non-fatal drowning cases over the thirteen years, the report highlights that males were overrepresented in the non-fatal drowning statistics between 2002 and 2015. Another population group overrepresented were children under the age of five, accounting for 41.9% of non-fatal drowning incidents.

When factoring in the direct harm from long term disability including health care costs and lost economic productivity, the report estimates that the total economic cost of non-fatal drownings averages $188 million every year in Australia.

Overall the findings from the report indicate that non-fatal drowning is a significant problem in Australia, with the number of non-fatal drowning incidents increasing by 42.4% over the past thirteen years. Given the scale of these incidents, Royal Life Saving Society suggest that policy interventions aimed at averting non-fatal drowning and preventing non-fatal incidents from continuing to rise would be worthy of investment.

To view the report or for more information about the incidence of drowning in Australia visit