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2B.003 What makes a population ‘high-risk’ for drowning in Australia?
  1. Stacey Willcox-Pidgeon1,2,
  2. Richard Franklin1,2,
  3. Peter Leggat2,
  4. Sue Devine2,
  5. Justin Scarr1
  1. 1Royal Life Saving Society – Australia, Sydney, Australia
  2. 2James Cook University, Townsville, Australia


Background In Australia, people born overseas are considered at higher-risk of drowning. Common perceptions is that being from overseas (including tourists), with English as another language makes someone more vulnerable to drowning. The aims were to analyse drowning deaths of people born overseas, and to identify specific risk factors to better inform prevention strategies targeted to migrant populations.

Methods A total population analysis of all unintentional, drowning deaths over 10 years (2008/09–2017/18) of people born outside of Australia were included. Cases were extracted from the Royal Life Saving National Fatal Drowning Database, collated from the National Coronial Information System. Descriptive statistics, relative risk and crude drowning rates were calculated.

Results 794 people drowned, who were born overseas, accounting for 27% of total drowning deaths. 77% were men, 24% were aged 25–34 years. Three groups were identified: Australian residents (83%), overseas visitors (14%) and international students (4%). Differences in drowning rates were found when analysed by country of birth, and time in Australia e.g. new arrivals 0–5 years versus resident for 5–10 years, 10–20 years and 20 years+.

Conclusion These results identified that distinct sub-groups exist within the ‘high-risk’ population category, each with differing risk factors for drowning. These findings offer practical insights when devising effective drowning prevention policy and programs for specific groups. This study informed the Australian Water Safety Strategy 2030 area pertaining to ‘high-risk’ populations.

Learning Outcomes ‘High-risk’ populations for drowning are not homogenous and this should be taken into account when developing drowning prevention policies and strategies

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