Non-fatal drowning is often reported incorrectly as ‘near-drowning’. This term has been replaced by World Health Organization. There are three outcomes of a drowning: death, morbidity (injury), and no morbidity.

If the person does not die from the drowning, then it is a non-fatal drowning with or without morbidity (injury).  A person who does not die from a drowning incident and survives may experience either: no complications or, brain or other organ damage ranging from mild to severe. This is also known as hypoxic brain injury (brain damage due to lack of oxygen).

Between 2002/03 and 2014/15, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows there were an average of 474 people per year admitted to hospital following a non-fatal drowning, compared to an average of 285 fatal drownings recorded for the same period.

Children aged 0-4 years are at highest risk for both fatal and non-fatal drownings, and make up the largest proportion of hospitalisations compared to all other age groups. Swimming pools (including backyard and public pools) record the largest number of non-fatal drownings, especially among young children. Teenagers and adults are more likely to get into difficulty in natural bodies of water such as in rivers, lakes and at beaches.

Key non-fatal drowning facts:

  • Between 1 July 2002 and 30 June 2015 there were 6,158 cases of non-fatal drowning in Australia that resulted in hospitalisation.
  • There are an average of 474 non-fatal drowning incidents each year.
  • Non-fatal incidents have increased by 42% in 13 years.
  • Males account for 66% of all non-fatal drowning incidents.
  • Young children aged 0-4 years accounted for 42% of all non-fatal drowning incidents.
  • Non-fatal drowning incidents in children aged 0-4 years is between 5 and 14 times higher than any other age group.
  • Swimming pools are the leading location for non-fatal drowning, accounting for 36% of incidents.
  • Children under the age of five years account for 78% of non-fatal drowning incidents in home swimming pools.
  • More than half of non-fatal incidents occurred in major cities (64%).
  • The total economic cost of non-fatal drowning averages $188 million per year.
  • The average cost per incident is $400,000, with variations mostly based on the victim’s age and the resulting number of years over which they potentially experience disability and require care.

Click here to read 'A 13 Year National Study of non-fatal drowning in Australia.

Click here to download a print friendly version of the Non-Fatal Drowning Fact Sheet