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2TM Regional News

The drowning gender issue

A new research report by the Royal Life Saving Society Australia reveals concerning statistics surrounding men and inland waterways.

The Inland Waterways Report 2023 revealed there were 924 drowning deaths in inland waterways over the ten year period of 2011 to 2021, with an overwhelming 80 per cent of those deaths being male.

Dr Katrien Pickles from Royal Life Saving said this is a gendered issue.

“We see that male children are the highest drowning statistic in the five to 14 age group and even in infancy, so it’s tricky to know why it is a gendered issue,” she said.

“It could be that men are taking more risks, but because we do see it happening from the zero to four age group, it’s not something we can only blame it on.”

Inadequate supervision and unsupervised access to water were the highest contributing factors to children drowning, whereas substances, pre-existing medical conditions and swimming alone were the highest contributing factors for adult drownings.

As for men, they more often than not engage in more waterway activities such as boating and fishing than women and according to the report, they are also more likely to enter the water after consuming alcohol and recreational drugs than women.

Overwhelmingly 80% of reported inland waterway drownings over a ten year period were male.

Dr Pickles said when talking about individual safety messages, sometimes people may not take it on board because they think they’re a strong swimmer or may have done that activity countless times before.

“It could happen really quickly, even if you are a strong swimmer,” she said.

“We can see 40 per cent of people who drowned did so within 20km of where they lived, so, it’s a known location.

“This means they may have been to that location many times before and have fallen victim to a bit of complacency or lost a bit of vigilance, and just simply not taking as many safety precautions as they may have when they first visited.”

One message everyone can take home is Respect the River Campaign.

“It really emphasises to not go alone, making sure you are swimming with mates and especially for males, not just thinking about yourself, but thinking of those around you,” said Dr Pickles.

“So, making sure you’re getting home safely to loved ones, checking the conditions before you enter the water, including the weather and activity upstream following rainfall.

“It also means taking care near waterbeds and damages because unfortunately, 19 per cent of the drowning fatalities in the 10 year period were fall related.

“We have lost a lot of fathers, husbands and sons this summer to drowning and rescue related drowning, so we hope safety messages reach men and their families.”

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