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Another gender data gap: female drowning in Aotearoa, New Zealand


Introduction A gender gap is present in drowning research and prevention interventions, resulting in an inequitable focus on males. This study aimed to address the gender data gap, exploring female drowning in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Methods National data on female fatal and non-fatal drowning requiring hospitalisation between 2003 and 2019 were sourced from DrownBase, Water Safety New Zealand’s drowning database. Univariate and χ2 analyses were conducted for fatal and hospitalisation data. Crude rates were calculated and used to explore temporal trends and RR by age groups and ethnicity for fatal and non-fatal drowning. Ratios for drowning-related hospitalisations and Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) claims to drowning deaths were also calculated.

Results From 2003 to 2019, a total of 1087 female drowning fatalities and non-fatal (76.0%) drowning incidents requiring hospitalisation occurred. Linear trends indicate hospitalisations increased (y=0.0766x+1.4271; R2=0.4438), while fatal drowning decreased (y=−0.0101x+0.7671; R2=0.1011). The highest fatal (1.60) and non-fatal (8.22) drowning rates were seen among children aged 0–4 years. For every one female drowning fatality, there are 3.46 hospital admissions and 675.55 ACC claims.

Discussion Female drowning represents a significant burden on the health system and the community in New Zealand. Further investment in interventions targeting females about their own risky behaviours around water (not only children in their care) is suggested, including interventions focused on hazardous conditions and alcohol consumption.

Conclusion For decades, the focus of drowning prevention among adolescents and adults has been on males. However, efforts must be broadened to prevent any further increase in drowning-related incidents among females in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

  • gender
  • policy
  • descriptive epidemiology
  • drowning
  • public health
  • alcohol

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