Research shows Middle Aged Men are at highest risk of drowning in Tasmania

2018 RLS TAS Drowning Report Launch

Royal Life Saving Tasmania have released a new report, ‘A 15 year analysis of fatal drowning’, which reveals that 163 people drowned in Tasmania between 1 July 2002 and 30 June 2017.

Men accounted for 83% of these drowning deaths.

Oceans/Harbours were the leading location for drowning accounting for 32% of drowning deaths, followed by rivers creeks and streams (29%).

Pene Snashall, President of Royal Life Saving Society Tasmania says people shouldn’t overestimate their ability or underestimate aquatic conditions.

“Conditions can change rapidly in both open and inland waterways. Always check the conditions before you go out and be prepared for any situation,” says Pene Snashall.

The newly released report found that people aged 55-64 and 35-44 years old accounted for the highest percentage of drowning deaths at 18% each.

One in four people who drowned over the past 15 years were boating at their time of death.

Pene Snashall said that middle aged men accounted for the highest proportion of all drowning deaths.

“These are preventable. Don’t overestimate your ability or take risks around water, wear a life jacket, and avoid alcohol.”

Alcohol is a key risk factor, with more than a quarter of drowning deaths known to involve alcohol (28.2%). Royal Life Saving are addressing these alarming statistics with the support of the Federal Government through the “Don’t Let Your Mates Drink and Drown" campaign.

Ms Snashall said that the Don’t Let Your Mates Drink and Drown campaign calls on men to look out for each other.

“Avoid alcohol around water, and keep your mates out of trouble by speaking up if they are drunk and they decide to go swimming or take the boat for a spin.”
Over the 15 year period, 31% of drowning deaths occurred in winter.

Ms Snashall said that cold water shock is a key issue in Tasmania with water temperatures dropping below 12 degrees in winter. Drowning is heightened in cold water as the body’s initial shock response causes hyperventilation, hyperthermia and an increase in metabolism.

“It’s important to be prepared whenever around water even when you’re not planning on going in. Falls into water accounted for 18% of drowning deaths. Take care around edges, wear a lifejacket when boating or fishing, and never go out alone”.

Pre-existing medical conditions were found in almost half of people who drowned (48.5%).

Ms Snashall encouraged adults aged 45 years and over to include a drowning risk assessment as part of a regular medical check-up, regardless of whether they are regular water users.
“Royal Life Saving highlights the need for all older Australians to be aware of the increased drowning risk associated with pre-existing medical conditions, the impacts of medications and the dangers of swimming alone,” she said.

Sadly, five children under the age of five drowned in Tasmania between 1 July 2002 and 30 June 2017.

Ms Snashall said that parents and carers cannot be complacent about a child’s safety around water.

“Royal Life Saving Tasmania continue to promote the Keep Watch program, educating parents and carers on toddler water safety”.

Featured Image with Report - Karina Siggins, Project & Programs Manager, Royal Life Saving Society  Australia – Tasmania