More Work Needed to Tackle Alcohol Drownings


Following a Griffith University systematic literature review, there has been a call for high quality research to reduce alcohol related drowning.

According to Dr Kyra Hamilton from Griffith’s  Menzies Health Institute Queensland, the statistics are still high despite efforts to address this global public health issue.

In Australia we are well aware of the drinking culture that often leads to drownings and the need to address this.

In a research collaboration between the Griffith University researchers and Royal Life Saving Society – Australia, 73 related studies were looked into. Researchers found on average 49 per cent of fatal drownings and 35 per cent of non-fatal drownings involved alcohol.

In Australia, alcohol is involved in about 23 per cent of unintentional fatal drownings since 2002 out of a total of 4256, according to Royal Life Saving’s National Fatal Drowning Database. Alcohol played a significant role, with a blood alcohol content of 0.05 or higher being present in 66 per cent of cases.

Statistics also show that alcohol drownings are prevalent among males than females which is not surprising however what is surprising is that these alcohol drownings usually occur at inland waterways such as rivers, lakes and dams and not the ocean as you may expect.

Researchers found that males boating and not wearing lifejackets as well as those swimming alone, at night and at locations without lifeguards were at an increased risk of alcohol related drownings.

“Only two studies evaluated prevention strategies,” 

“This study highlights the urgent need for high quality intervention research aimed at reducing alcohol-related drowning and the need for higher quality studies and behavioural research to better understand this risky behaviour.” Dr Hamilton explained.


For a number of years Royal Life Saving has been focusing on prevention of alcohol drowning and water injuries and in its latest campaign it urged the public “Don’t Let Your Mates Drink and Drown”. That campaign was developed with the aid of the Australian Government, urging men to look out for their friends and not allow the risk taking behavior that leads to drownings but more research is needed.

“Future research should focus on the implementation and evaluation of prevention strategies to reduce further loss of life due to alcohol-related drowning,” Dr Hamilton says.

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