Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2021. Injury in Australia: drowning and submersion. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 28 September 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/drowning-and-submersion
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Injury in Australia: drowning and submersion. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/drowning-and-submersion
Injury in Australia: drowning and submersion. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 10 March 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/drowning-and-submersion
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Injury in Australia: drowning and submersion [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2021 [cited 2021 Sep. 28]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/drowning-and-submersion
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2021, Injury in Australia: drowning and submersion, viewed 28 September 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/drowning-and-submersion
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Water-related activities such as swimming and bathing are usually safe, when risks are managed appropriately. However, environmental conditions or accidents can result in submersion injuries or death by drowning. Some submersion injuries can have long-term effects, such as when the brain goes without oxygen for too long.
In 2017–18, 0.1% of hospitalised injury cases and 1.6% of injury deaths were due to drowning and submersion.
Swimming pools were the most common place that drowning and serious submersion injuries occurred and natural bodies of water were the most common places in which drowning deaths occur. Males were almost 3 times as likely to die from drowning as females and children aged under 5 were particularly at risk.
This report summarises key data on unintentional (accidental) drowning and submersion hospitalised injuries and deaths. Intentional injuries and deaths involving drowning and submersion are included under Self-harm injuries and suicide. Accidentally falling overboard from a watercraft is included under Transport injuries.
In 2017–18, drowning and submersion accidents resulted in:
664 hospitalisation cases
2.7 per 100,000 population
0.8 per 100,000 population
This article only includes data on injuries that result in hospital admission or death. If a person dies from an injury after being admitted to hospital, both the hospitalisation and the death is included in this report. For more information see Defining injury hospitalisation cases and injury deaths.
Table 1 shows the locations where hospitalised drowning and submersion injuries most often take place.
Rate (per 100,000)
Swimming pool (including following a fall into a pool) (W67–68)
Natural water (including following a fall into natural water) (W69–70)
Bathtub (including following a fall into a bathtub) (W65–66)
Other or unspecified (W73–74)
Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database
For more detailed data, see Data tables B3–4.
Since 2008–09, there has been:
Annual average rate changes are calculated using modelled age-standardised rates (see Technical notes for more details).
Because of changes in data collection methods, hospitalisations data for 2017–18 should not be compared with those of previous years and are not included in Figure 1 (see Technical notes for more details). Death data for 2017–18 are comparable with rates for previous years.
The visualisation features 2 matching line graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisation cases and 1 for deaths. The 3 lines represent the trend for males, females and persons from 2008–09 to 2016–17 for hospitalisation cases and to 2017–18 for deaths. The reader can select to display rate per 100,000 population or number, and can select by life-stage age group including all ages.
For more detailed data, see Data tables C1–4 and E1–4.
Drowning and submersion injury hospitalisation and death rates differ by age groups and by sex (Figure 2). In 2017–18:
The visualisation features 2 matching column graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisation cases and 1 for deaths. The columns represent sex within 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display either age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The default displays males and females and the reader can also select to display persons.
For more detailed data, see Data tables A1–3 and D1–3.
Three measures that may indicate the severity of a hospitalised injury are length of stay, percentage of cases with time in an intensive care unit (ICU), and percentage of cases involving continuous ventilator support.
The average duration of a hospital stay for drowning and submersion injuries was shorter than the average for all injury hospitalisations, but the percentage of cases that included time in the ICU was one of the highest of all the main causes of hospitalised injuries and the percentage of cases that involved continuous ventilator support was the highest of all the causes of injury (Table 2).
Drowning and submersion injury
All hospitalised injuries
Average number of days in hospital
% of cases with time in an ICU
% of cases involving continuous ventilator support
Note: Average number of days in hospital (length of stay) includes admissions that are transfers from 1 hospital to another or transfers from 1 admitted care type to another within the same hospital, except where care involves rehabilitation procedures.
Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.
In 2017–18, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, there were 45 hospitalisations and 7 deaths due to drowning and submersion (Tables 3 and 4).
n.p. not publishable because of small numbers, confidentiality or other concerns about the quality of the data.
Note: Rates are crude per 100,000 population.
Source: AIHW National Hospital Mortality Database.
Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.
In 2017–18, Indigenous Australians, compared with non-Indigenous Australians, after adjusting for difference in population age structure, were 1.3 times as likely to be hospitalised due to a drowning and submersion injury (Figure 3). Readers are advised to use these data with caution due to small numbers.
Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.
The visualisation features a column graphs for hospitalisation cases. The columns represent data for Indigenous and non-Indigenous males, females and persons. The reader can select to display age-standardised rate per 100,000 population or number.
For more detailed data, see Data tables A4–A6 and D4–D8.
In 2017–18, people living in Australia’s Remote areas had the highest age-standardised rate of hospitalisations due to drowning and submersion and people living in Inner regional areas had the lowest (Figure 4). The rate of drowning deaths was higher in Outer regional areas than in less remote areas (Data table D9). Comparison of rates is limited for drowning deaths due to small numbers.
The visualisation features a column graph for hospitalisation cases. The columns represent data for each of the 5 remoteness categories for males, females and persons. The reader can select to display age-standardised rate per 100,000 population or number.
For more detailed data, see Data tables A7–A9 and D9–10.
For information on how statistics by remoteness are calculated, see Technical notes.
Technical notes—read about how the data were calculated.
Data tables—download full data tables.
ACCD (Australian Consortium for Classification Development) 2017. The international statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, 10th revision, Australian modification (ICD-10-AM), 10th edn. Tabular list of diseases and alphabetic index of diseases. Adelaide: Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA), Lane Publishing.
The following list includes AIHW publications from recent years that include information on drowning and submersion. See Reports for any older publications that may exist.
Research provided by Flinders University
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