We analysed 272 deaths and 515 hospitalisations due to drowning, to answer one question - what is the state of drowning in Australia?
Specifically, we looked at injury hospitalisation data from 2021-22 and injury death data from 2020-21, as sourced from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
We analysed factors like age, gender, region, drowning type and others to identify trends.
In this post, I’m going to share what we discovered.
Young children are often thought of as being the age group that is most prone to death from drowning.
However, this research found that the 65 and over age group actually has the highest rate of drowning deaths, at 1.8 deaths per 100,000 people.
This is 50% higher than the next highest cohort, which is 0-4 year olds, at a rate of 1.2 deaths per 100,000 people.
It is well understood that infants and toddlers are at greater risk of drowning and submersion injuries, as they often haven’t yet developed the skills to support themselves in the water.
Our analysis showed that while drownings make up just 2% of injury deaths across the general population, they made up 36% of injury deaths in the 0-4 age group.
The location for drowning deaths varies significantly across the age groups, with younger cohorts more likely to die in swimming pools, and older cohorts more likely to die in natural bodies of water.
This study found that 39% of all drowning deaths for children aged 0-4 occurred in swimming pools, compared to 12% for the general population.
Males have historically been over-represented in drowning death data in Australia.
Our study confirmed that males make up 80.1% of drowning deaths, and are 4 times as likely to die from drowning as females.
Part of this study included an analysis of whether there was any difference in the drowning rates between Australians in major cities, and those in regional and remote areas.
The study found that Australians outside of major cities have a drowning death rate of approximately 1.5 deaths per 100,000 people, which is more than half the rate in major cities (0.7 deaths per 100,000 people).
The ABS classifies socio-economic quintiles using the SEIFA system. As part of this analysis, we examined whether there was any correlation between drowning deaths and socio-economic status.
People in the highest quintile (least disadvantaged) die from drowning at a rate, of 0.5 deaths per 100,000 people. People in the lowest quintile (most disadvantaged), die at a rate of 1.3 deaths per 100,000 people, which is 150% higher.
In terms of total deaths and hospitalisations, there were 272 deaths from drowning in 2020-21, and 515 hospitalisations from drowning in 2021-22.
Generally speaking, the population-adjusted rates for deaths and hospitalisations have been slowly declining over the last decade.
There are a variety of causes that can result in injury hospitalisations and deaths.
Drowning in particular has a high ratio of deaths to hospitalisations, with it making up 2% of all injury deaths, but just 0.1% of injury hospitalisations.
This suggests that drownings are more likely to result in a fatality before the victim can be hospitalised.
On average, drowning hospitalisations result in a 2.7 day stay in hospital, which is lower than the average injury hospitalisation stay of 4.7 days.
A small but significant fraction of drowning hospitalisations require serious and intensive care.
7.6% of patients require a stay in ICU, and 6.7% require continuous ventilatory support.
Of all drowning hospitalisations, 1.7% died in hospital, which is much higher than the average of 0.6% for all injury hospitalisations.
Thanks for taking the time to look through our analysis of drowning deaths and hospitalisations in Australia in 2020-22.
Feel free to quote any of the statistics, or use any of the charts in this report for your own work, as long as you provide attribution in the form of a link back to this page.
If you have any questions about this study, feel free to get in touch at email@example.com.
To prepare this analysis, publicly available Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data were gathered on all 272 drowning deaths in Australia in 2020-21 and all 515 drowning hospitalisations in 2021-22.
Analysis was carried out on the data to see if any trends emerged for factors like age, socio-economic status, gender, drowning type, location and more.
Where correlations and trends were found, they were charted and described in this report.
For more information on how this study was performed, or any other general questions, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.