Not waving, drowning

Not waving, drowning

Drownings reach 10-year high in Australian adults aged 25 to 34

Updated 15 Sep 2016, 2:41pm

First day of the season

Men over-estimating their skills and underestimating waterways while drunk has contributed to the number of 25- to 34-year-old drownings reaching a 10-year high, a report has found.

Key points:

  • The Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report found 280 people drowned in 2015-16
  • One fifth of the overall deaths were 25 to 34-year-olds
  • A significant reduction of drownings had occurred in children under the age of five

The Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report found 280 people drowned in 2015-16, a 5 per cent increase since the year before.

One fifth of the overall deaths were 25- to 34-year-olds, and of that number, 83 per cent were men.

Royal Life Saving Society chief executive Justin Scarr said alcohol was a major contributing factor.

“Men often over-estimate their skills in and around the water, they underestimate things like currents and rips and they take unnecessary risks and often they’re in groups, small groups and they’re consuming considerable amounts of alcohol,” he said.

Author of the report Alison Mahony said most drownings happened on Sundays and peaked in the afternoon.

“We are seeing a typical picture of a young adult male swimming or boating on a Sunday afternoon … and alcohol is a key factor so 15 per cent of those deaths involved alcohol,” she told the ABC.

The report found a significant reduction of drownings had occurred in children under the age of five, with the figure of 21 deaths a 30 per cent decrease against the 10-year average.

“Now traditionally, most of those occur in backyard swimming pools and we’ve seen a significant reduction,” Mr Scarr said.

“And it really does reinforce the importance of state and territory governments getting behind swimming pool fencing legislation and also encourages local governments to inspect backyard pools.”

Ms Mahony said educating parents on how to properly supervise children around water was a key element to keeping young children safe.

“Check your [pool] fence and pool gate and make sure parents learn CPR so that if something does happen, they know exactly what to do and they can respond quickly in an emergency.”

Highest number of waterway deaths in NT

Over-65s accounted for the highest number of deaths this past year with 58 drownings — a 9 per cent increase against the 10-year average, a figure Mr Scarr said would be surprising to most Australians.

“People are getting themselves into trouble in a range of water locations and important messages here are to know your skills, also understand the impacts medication and other illness you might have and the best place, the safest place for a person over 65 to recreate is the local aquatic centre,” he said.

New South Wales saw the highest number of drownings with 96 incidences, but the Northern Territory had the highest rate of waterways deaths with 3.88 per 100,000 population.

Mr Scarr said seasonable factors played a role in that figure.

“During the wet season we see increased amount of water across waterways, also Territorians love their boats and fishing and so we see a range of drowning events that happen involving alcohol generally and people taking unnecessary risks on boats,” he said.

“Of course every Territorian should have the skills to swim and survive and it vitally important that the swim survival program is delivered to schools and delivered across the Territory.”

The NT also had the highest increase in drowning deaths since last year, with a jump from four deaths to 14.

The number of deaths in inland waterways such as rivers, lakes and dams decreased by 26 per cent around Australia except for in the Northern Territory, which recorded an increase against the 10-year average.

The report also found in 89 cases, the person was known to be a visitor to the area where they had drowned and 25 people this year were overseas tourists — 44 per cent of that number were from Asian countries.

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