New ANZJPH article highlights drowning risk on long weekends

Wave in the ocean.


Australians were reminded to be vigilant about their water safety prior to the June long weekend, following research published last week in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (ANZJPH) which highlighted the increased risk of death and drowning on public holidays.

The research, conducted by Surf Life Saving Australia analysed coastal deaths from 2004 to 2021 and found the risk of coastal death (drowning deaths and fatalities due to other causes) more than doubled on public holidays and was even higher on long weekends.    

Over the 17-year study period, 185 coastal deaths occurred on public holidays and 167 on long weekends. One in six coastal drowning deaths occur in winter.

Children younger than 16 years and overseas-born Australian residents were most vulnerable, whose risk of dying on the coast tripled over public holidays and long weekends compared to other times.

Article co-author Dr Jasmin Lawes, Lead Researcher from SLSA says the research also uncovered which coastal activities significantly increased the risk of mortality.

“On long weekends scuba diving and snorkelling were particularly associated with an increased risk of drowning or death, whereas on public holidays we saw greater risk associated with swimming, wading and bystander rescues.”

Co-author Mr Shane Daw ESM, General Manager of Coastal Safety at SLSA says the research will help inform new measures to help keep people safe on the coast.

“On public holidays and long weekends, people flock to the coast – and this increased visitation brings increased exposure to risk. This research shows that children and overseas-born residents are most vulnerable to, and are probably less familiar with, the risks at Australian beaches. We need tailored water safety education and messaging to help protect these at-risk groups.”

As ANZJPH is the official journal of the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA), the PHAA communications team collaborated with Surf Life Saving Australia to promote the research and tips for water safety ahead of the long weekend. The research generated 15 unique media stories, across outlets including SBS Audio, 2SM, South Coast Register, the Hobart Mercury and Townsville Bulletin. An AAP article was also syndicated across 77 outlets such as the Canberra Times Online.

The research was also promoted through both PHAA’s and SLSA’s social media channels.

Public holiday and long weekend mortality risk in Australia: A behaviour and usage risk analysis for coastal drowning and other fatalities” is available here.

The June 2023 issue of ANZJPH is now available. Read the June issue’s open access articles, covering topics including Indigenous health, chronic disease prevention and control, and injury prevention here.

Image: Tim Marshall/Unsplash

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