Content

Drowning

Definition of Drowning

Drowning is the experience of respiratory impairment or suffocation, due to submersion in some form of liquid.1

The term “drowning” is sometimes used to describe events that did not result in death.1

Impact of Drowning on Western Australia

Who does it impact?

In Western Australia between 2009 and 2013, there were 195 deaths due to drowning.2

In Western Australia between 2010 and 2014 there were:2

  • 8,471 hospitalisations due to drowning.
  • 63.1% of hospitalisations for drowning were males.
  • people aged 65+ had the highest incidence of drowning.

In Western Australia Aboriginal People make up 3.1% of the population, however between 2010 and 2014 7.38% of drowning hospitalisations were Aboriginal People.2,3

 

Where does it occur?

In Western Australia between 2010 and 2014, the regions with the largest difference in hospitalisation rates compared to the WA State hospitalisation rate, were the Kimberley (53% higher), Midwest (51% higher) and South West (44% higher).2

Impact on health system

In Western Australia in 2014, there were 2,203 hospitalisations for drowning, consuming an estimated 21,985 bed days at an approximate cost of $35,048,169.2

Determinants of Drowning (Risk / Protective Factors)

Social Determinants

Socioeconomic status
People in areas of lower socioeconomic status are approximately four times as likely to drown than those in areas of higher socioeconomic status, due to less experience with water and less access to water safety education programs.5

Environmental, Community and Organisational Determinants

Fencing and safety barriers
Inadequate fencing and ineffective safety barriers to private swimming pools are a commonly reported factor in drowning in children.6

Behavioural and Individual Determinants

Access to water safety programs and swimming ability
Lack of swimming ability is a key risk factor for drowning.6

Culturally and linguistically diverse populations (CaLD) are over-represented in the Western Australian drowning statistics due to low safety awareness and low participation levels in water safety programs.7

Adult supervision
Lack of adult supervision has been identified as an important determinant of drowning in children.6 This includes parental or carer neglect and a lack of adequate inspection of barriers, i.e. parents and carers thinking the child in their care cannot access the pool.6

Alcohol use
Alcohol use can affect a person’s judgment and swimming ability, making consumption a key determinant for drowning.3 Alcohol consumption may also have physiological effects while a person is submerged, for example, by increasing hypothermia.6

Effective Interventions

Legislation, Policies, Standards and Codes of Practice

Pool fencing legislation
Thorough education programs are required to raise public awareness of the legislation that safeguards against drowning in the home.6

Western Australian Example

Current legislation in Western Australia states that all private swimming pools must be installed with a fence restricting children under the age of five from entering the pool area. Doors or windows leading out to the pool area must be self-closing and self-locking.6

Environmental, Community and Organisational Initiatives

Water safety campaigns
Education is also required around the risks of drowning in the home and the importance of secure barriers for toddlers and children and water safety.6

Western Australian Example

A campaign aimed at reducing alcohol-related injury around water was launched in Western Australia in 2004 called “Don’t Drink and Drown”. This was a mass media campaign run by Royal Life Saving WA.8

Western Australian Example

The Multicultural BeachSAFE program is run by Surf Life Saving WA and aims to develop water skills in culturally and linguistically diverse groups through surfing and beach activities.9

Lifeguards
Effective lifeguard patrolling at beaches and popular swimming locations is essential for preventing drowning.6

Western Australian Example

Some community organisations, such as Surf Life Saving WA, provide surveillance, protection, medical assistance and rescue services at all patrolled beaches in Western Australia.9

Group and Individual Initiatives

First aid training
CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and First Aid training courses are provided for all people from beginners through to experts, as well as refresher training courses.8

Western Australian Example

A variety of providers, such as Royal Life Saving WA and Surf Lifesaving WA, offer CPR and First Aid training, both face to face and through online e-learning platforms.8 9

Key stakeholders in Western Australia

Other Resources

References

1 Violence and Injury Prevention: Drowning, (2015) World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/other_injury/drowning/en/
2 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, ‘Western Australia, People’, viewed 5 September 2017, <www.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2016/quickstat/5?opendocument>
3 Data generated using HealthTracks Reporting, by the Epidemiology Branch, WA Department of Health in collaboration with the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRC-SI), March 2017.
5 Department of Health, Western Australia. Injury prevention in Western Australia: A review of statewide activity. Perth; Chronic Disease Prevention Directorate, Department of Health. 2015.
8 Don’t Drink and Drown, (2015) Royal Life Saving WA. Retrieved from http://www.dontdrinkanddrown.com.au/
9 First Aid Training, (2015) Surf Life Saving WA. Retrieved from http://surflifesavingwa.com.au/community-education/first-aid-training-

Printable Fact Sheet

Click here to download a printable version of the Drowning Fact sheet