School-Aged Kids Drowning Stubbornly High - New Research

MEDIA RELEASE - 11 August 2022

Royal Life Saving 10-year analysis of drowning in children

New research released today by the Royal Life Saving Society – Australia has found drowning deaths in school children aged five to 14 have remained stubbornly high over the past decade.

The research, which covers the decade to the end of June 2021, examined all 105 drowning deaths in children aged five to 14 years old. Male children in the five to nine years age group continued to be at most risk of drowning.

There was a short-lived decrease in drowning deaths in this age group in 2016/17 and 2017/18, but those gains have been eliminated in the years since.

It has promoted a call for parents to re-enrol children in swimming lessons, especially older children who have not yet reached the national benchmarks for their age groups.

Royal Life Saving Senior Project Officer – Research and Policy, Dr Katrien Pickles said it was disappointing to see a reversal in the progress towards reducing drowning.

"We had seen a decrease in drowning deaths in 2016/17 and 2017/18 but unfortunately those gains have been lost,” Dr Pickles said.

"With all children missing out on swimming lessons during COVID-19 swimming pool closures, there is a need for children of all ages to re-enrol in swimming lessons.

“As children grow and gain independence, they and their caregivers may over-estimate their swimming abilities. Regardless of how good a swimmer you think your child is, all children need constant supervision in, on and around water.

“Summer was the season when the most drowning incidents occurred. We are deeply concerned that if children are not re-enrolled in swimming now, there will be further preventable drowning deaths.”

Children aged five to 14 years continue to be most at risk of drowning at swimming pool, river/creek and lake/dam locations.

The report also found severe weather events were a growing risk factor for drowning deaths in this age group, with seven per cent of the children who died drowning in flood-related incidents.

Adult caregivers are reminded to prevent children from playing in or near flood waters, especially storm water drains.


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