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Hospital-admitted drowning in Victoria, Australia, before and after the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic


Objectives To examine trends in hospitalisation following drowning in Victoria, Australia, before and after the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Design Retrospective analysis of administrative hospital admission records.

Setting Hospital admissions recorded in the Victorian Admitted Episodes Dataset.

Participants Hospital-admitted patients with ≥1 drowning-related International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision, Australian Modification diagnosis code.

Main outcome measures Incidence and incidence rate ratios (IRR; 95% CIs) of hospital-admitted drowning that occurred before (July 2017 to June 2019), during (July 2019 to June 2021) and after (July 2021 to June 2022) the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results There were 736 hospital admissions related to drowning in the study period; the incidence was 2.6 per 100 000 population pre-COVID-19 and dropped to 2.0 per 100 000 during (2019/2020–2020/2021) and after (2021/2022) the onset of the pandemic. Among Victorian residents, drowning was positively associated with younger age, male sex and regional/remote residence. Drowning was negatively associated with the onset of COVID-19 (IRR 0.76 (0.64, 0.90)) as well as the post-COVID-19 period (0.78 (0.64, 0.97)), compared with pre-COVID-19. Natural water drowning rates were consistently higher than pool or bathtub drowning rates. Pool or bathtub drowning rates decreased with the onset of COVID-19; no significant change was observed in the natural water drowning rate.

Conclusion(s) Pool and bathtub drowning rates declined since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite more time spent at home, while natural water drowning rates remained consistently high. Hospital admissions provide a valuable data source for monitoring of drowning, which is crucial to ensure a targeted, evidence-based approach to mitigate drowning risk.

  • Drowning
  • Policy
  • COVID-19
  • Education
  • Public Health

Data availability statement

Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. The first author had full access to the data in the study. The unit record data cannot be made available upon request by the researchers as this would breach the data use agreement, but Victorian Admitted Episodes Dataset (VAED) data can be requested directly from the Victorian Agency for Health Information.

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