Males are consistently overrepresented in fatal coastal drowning incidents, with young males representing a significant proportion of these. This is often attributed to their greater participation and increased confidence levels which do not necessarily reflect abilities.
Using annual coastal safety surveys and the national coastal fatality database, this study examined characteristics of drowning deaths and current perceptions of coastal safety within this high-risk demographic. Inflated confidence levels of young males to engage in risk-taking behaviour was confirmed with survey respondents consistently considering themselves to be experienced enough to take risks during activities in comparison to the total adult population.
Since 2004, males aged between 16–39 account for 36% of all drowning deaths. In 2018–19, 44 drowning deaths were young males. Average fatality rate ratios revealed young males are twice as likely (2.05:1) to drown on our coast, particularly at rock/cliff and beach locations. Young males were more likely to drown while jumping, snorkelling, swimming and wading, with 58% of young male drowning victims reported to have little to no experience in the activity being undertaken at the time of death. Analyses revealed young males were twice as likely to drown on a public holiday and significantly more likely to have consumed alcohol or drugs (RR=1.3; CI:1.1–1.5) than other demographics.
These results highlight that the adventurous nature and overconfidence exhibited by young males puts them at significant risk of drowning and should be a target for future drowning prevention strategies on the Australian coast.