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COA S TAL SAFE T Y BRIE F ALCOHOL & DRUGS S U R F L I FE S AV I N G AU S T R A L I A


ALCOHOL & DRUGS SNAPSHOT 20 0 4 -20

TORRES

2 STRAIT

ANALYSIS On average 31 people die unintentionally on our coast each year with alcohol or drugs in their system, with a total of 503 coastal deaths recorded. Two out of three of these deaths were due to drowning (n=344). ‘Toxicity and Health’ is priority number five in our National Safety Agenda Issues.

AVERAGE DEATHS

AVERAGE MORTALITY RATE

PER YEAR

PER 100,000 POPULATION

31

DROWNING DEATHS

27 92

0.14

OTHER FATALITIES

20 148 79 36

AVERAGE AGE

344 159

99

44

INCIDENT TYPE

KEY DEMOGRAPHICS 20-29 YEAR OLDS

35-54 YEAR OLDS

20% 42% AUSTRALIAN

41%

AUSTRALIAN-BORN

40%

41% DRUGS

MALE

93% 72% 85%

Alcohol Alcohol & Drugs Drugs

19%

RESIDENTS

AVERAGE

0.19 ALCOHOL BAC

0.18 0.16

0.16

0.16

0.16

0.15

0.16

0.16

Rate per 100,000 pop. Alcohol Drugs & Alcohol Drugs

0.15

0.15

0.14 0.12

0.12

0.12

0.07 0.05

2

2009-10

2010-11

28

33

37

29

19

13 2019-20

2008-09

37

2018-19

2007-08

38

2017-18

2006-07

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

35

2016-17

40

2015-16

34

2014-15

35

2013-14

34

2012-13

34

2011-12

33 2005-06

47%

24 2004-05

BEACH

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – RIP CURRENTS


INTRODUCTION

A

unique component of the Australian identity is our larrikin streak, an affectionate term with positive connotations that describes an Australian style which highlights our relaxed nature and funliving, ‘laissez-faire’ attitude. Unfortunately, this identity is largely synonymous with risky behaviours including alcohol and drug consumption. Alcohol and drug use in Australia is widespread and swimming after consuming alcohol is the second most common harmful risk after drink driving1. Given that 85% of the population reside within 50km of the coast and it is firmly embedded within Australian culture, ‘Toxicity and Health’ has become one of the top priorities in our National Safety Agenda Issues at Surf Life Saving. Alcohol and drugs in Australia account for more than 4,186 deaths per year with a combined economic cost of $23.5 AUD billion to the community2. Alcohol and drugs increase the risk of an incident occurring, reduce decision-making capabilities and timely-response to hazards, particularly when in, or around, water3. Alcohol and drugs are known risk factors for drowning and often contributory in injury-related fatalities 4. Coastal environments are dynamic with many associated risks and hazards that need to be considered. Combining these risks and hazards with the impaired judgement and coordination from alcohol and drug use increases the risk of unintentional death considerably. The presence of alcohol and drugs in fatal coastal incidents has been monitored by Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) due to the ongoing prevalence of these deaths. Between 2004-2020, alcohol and drug use has contributed to one in five coastal unintentional fatal incidents (22%, n = 503). Of the 503 alcohol and drug-related deaths, 344 were due to drowning and 159 were caused by other means (e.g. medical episodes, injuries, accidents, marine fauna, etc.). This equates to an average of 31 alcohol and drug-related deaths per year. Most of these deaths occurred to men (85%, n=426) while swimming or wading (23%, n=109), at beach locations (47%, n=234) and involved local individual who lived less than ten kilometres from the incident location (47%, n=226). The majority occurred at unpatrolled locations greater than 1 km from a surf lifesaving service (73%, n=331). Alcohol and drugs contributed to fatal coastal incidents relatively equally, with alcohol detected in 40% (n=203) or drugs detected in 41% (n=204) of cases. Alcohol and drugs together were considered to contribute to 19% (n=96) of cases. The most prevalent substances in alcohol and drug-related coastal incidents were alcohol (58%,

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

n=290), cannabis (20%, n=101), benzodiazepines (sedatives; 15%, n=) and amphetamines (11%, n=56). For cases where alcohol was detected (58%, n=290), almost all (94%, n=274) recorded blood alcohol concentration levels above the legal driving limit of (0.05g/100ml), with the average BAC 0.19 nearly four times above the legal driving limit. SLSA’s annual National Coastal Safety Survey explores Australian attitudes and behaviours towards coastal safety. Fortunately, survey results revealed that most Australians avoid mixing alcohol and drug consumption with popular coastal recreational activities. Even so there are some exceptions. For example, while 75% of swimming and wading survey participants think that no alcohol beverages should be consumed before swimming or wading, only 70% ‘always’ avoid it. This pattern is similarly reported for other activities such as surfing (76%/66%), watercraft (73%/66%), rock fishing (73%/62%), snorkelling (85%/70%), scuba diving (86%/71%) and PWC (86%/76%). Land-based fishing is the exception where almost half (44%) of all fishers think its reasonable to consume one or more drinks before fishing, but 61% ‘always’ avoid alcohol and drugs while fishing. Safe recreating at the coast involves being aware of hazards and taking on the responsibility to make safe choices and choose safe behaviour. The Coastal safety brief – Alcohol & drugs aims to inform future mitigation strategies to reduce unintentional coastal deaths attributed to alcohol and drug use.

1

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – RIP CURRENTS


L O C AT I O N BL ACKSPOTS

BLACKSPOTS A blackspot is an area where a concentration of incidents is recorded and has a high probability/risk of ongoing reoccurrence. These areas have recorded the highest numbers of deaths in which alcohol and drugs have been detected. QLD Gold Coast Redland Sunshine Coast Whitsunday NSW Randwick Central Coast Northern Beaches Byron VIC Mornington Peninsula NT Darwin

INSET: Indian Ocean Territories (Inset is same scale as main map)

4

Christmas Island 2

Christmas Island to Port Hedland approx. 1,800 km

24 11 10 9 15 11 11 11

55|3 Drowning | Unitentional Fatalities Key to Activity 2 2

Attempting a Rescue 2

Boating & PWC Fall

17

2 2

Jump 3

Land-based Fishing

16

PERTH 2 2

Non Aquatic Transport Rock Fishing 2

Scuba Diving

3 2

Snorkelling Swimming/Wading Watercraft Other Unknown 4

Multiple instances per activity at the same location Capital City

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

2

0

SCALE

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – RIP CURRENTS


3

1|1

2 2

2

3

DARWIN 3 2 2

2

17|10

2

3

2 2

61|38

37 17|3

2 2 2 3 2 2 2

2

2 2 2

BRISBANE

2

2 2 4 6 2 2 2

3 2

106|42

2 3 3

2 2

2

2

ADELAIDE

3

2 2 2 2 3 6

2

4 5

CANBERRA

MELBOURNE

SYDNEY 2

2 2 2 7 2 3 2 2 2 9 8 5 2

2 3 5 3 2 2 7 2

2

2

2

3

2

1,000km

58|21 29|7

2

HOBART

2

2 2

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

3

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – RIP CURRENTS


C A U S A L A N A LY S I S ALCOHOL & DRUGS 20 0 4 -20

WHY

11%

54%

RIP CURRENTS

48%

ALCOHOL > 0.05

DUE TO INJURY

WHERE

47%

41%

AT A BEACH LOCATION

INCIDENTS OCCURRED IN MAJOR CITIES

WHEN

73%

OCCURRED GREATER THAN 1KM FROM A SURF LIFE SAVING SERVICE

2020 SUMMER

42%

36%

OCCURRED ON THE WEEKEND

DECEMBER - FEBRUARY

38%

AFTERNOON (12-6PM)

WHO

47%

72%

LIVED LESS THAN 10KM FROM INCIDENT LOCATION

AUSTRALIAN-BORN

NB: Analyses include known cases only

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

4

23%

SWIMMERS/WADERS

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – RIP CURRENTS



C A U S A L A N A LY S I S ALCOHOL & DRUGS 20 0 4 -20

WHO

85%

42%

| 15%

AVERAGE AGE 44

| 31%

ALCOHOL

49

50

49

47

49

49

48

31

75-79

70-74

65-69

60-64

55-59

50-54

45-49

40-44

35-39

30-34

25-29

20-24

1 15-19

AGE & GENDER (N=503)

15 5

5 85+

12 10 10-14

DRUGS

22

20

80-84

22

| 40%

35-54 year olds account for 42% of alcohol and drug-related deaths while 20-29 year olds account for 20% (n=98).

40

30

41%

ALCOHOL & DRUGS

Male Female

40

0

| 29%

59

60

Number (n)

17%

BIRTH CONTINENT (N=402*) Australian-born individuals account for 72% (n=288) of alcohol and drug-related deaths. *Birth continent was known for 80% of cases. Twenty per cent (n=101) were unknown and excluded from analyses.

3%

12%

North America

Europe

6% Asia

2% 0%

Africa

72%

Latin America

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

6

5%

Oceania

Australia

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – RIP CURRENTS


C A U S A L A N A LY S I S ALCOHOL & DRUGS 20 0 4 -20

WHERE INCIDENT LOCATION (N=503)

DISTANCE FROM RESIDENCE TO INCIDENT LOCATION (N=486*)

Beach locations recorded the most alcohol and drug related deaths (47%, n=234), followed by rocky cliff environments (16%, n=78) and offshore waters (13%, n=67).

Most alcohol and drug related incidents involved local residents (47%, n=226) who lived within 10 km of incident location. 250

226

5%

Number (n)

200 3%

7%

150

124

100

87

50 10%

0

13%

47% BEACH 16%

< 10 km

10 - 50 km

47%

> 50 km (Intra-state)

25

24

> 50 km (Interstate)

International

*Residence location was known for 97% (n=483) of cases. Three per cent (n=17) were excluded from analyses.

Beach Rock/Cliff Offshore Bay Port/Marina Jetty Other

DISTANCE TO SURF LIFESAVING SERVICE (N=454*) Three quarters of alcohol and drug-related incidents occurred greater than one kilometre from a surf life saving service (73%, n=331). REMOTENESS (N=503)

250

Most alcohol and drug-related deaths occurred in major cities (41%, n=207) followed by regional locations (combined, 45%, n=225).

221

200

Number (n)

150

123

110

100 50 0

< 1 km

1 - 5 km

> 5 km

*Residence location was known for 97% (n=483) of cases. Three per cent (n=17) were excluded from analyses.

41%

22% 23% 2%

OFFSHORE

7%

MAJOR CITIES

INNER-REGIONAL

OUTER-REGIONAL

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

7

REMOTE

5%

VERY REMOTE

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – RIP CURRENTS


C A U S A L A N A LY S I S ALCOHOL & DRUGS 20 0 4 -20

WHEN 120 102

DAY (N=439*)

100

Most alcohol and drug-related deaths occurred on the weekend (42%, n=184).

Number (n)

82

*Day was known for 87% of cases. Thirteen per cent (n=64) occurred on unknown days and were excluded from analyses.

80 60

45

70

68

Thu

Fri

41

40

31

20 0 Mon

Tue

Wed

Sun

35

35

32 30

29

27 25 Number (n)

Sat

TIME (N=436*)

29

23

20 15 14

15 12 10

8

11 10

Alcohol and drug-related deaths occur throughout the day, with the majority recorded in the afternoon between 12-6pm (38%, n=165) and a second peak in the evening between 10pm-1am (16%, n=71)

22 22 18 17

18 18 17 17

16

11

*Time was known for 87% of cases (n=436). Thirteen per cent (n=67) occurred at unknown times and were excluded from analyses.

8

7

5

11 - 12 am

9 - 10 pm

10 - 11 pm

8 - 9 pm

7 - 8 pm

6 - 7 pm

5 - 6 pm

4 - 5 pm

3 - 4 pm

2 - 3 pm

1 - 2 pm

12 - 1 pm

10 - 11 am

11 - 12 pm

8 - 9 am

9 - 10 am

7 - 8 am

6 - 7 am

5 - 6 am

4 - 5 am

3 - 4 am

2 - 3 am

1 - 2 am

12 - 1 am

0

74

MONTH (N=501*) Most alcohol and drug-related deaths (36%, n=180) occurred over the summer months (Dec-Feb), followed by spring (25%, n=123). Shading denotes seasons.

56 50 43

*Month was known for 99.6% of cases (n=501). Two cases (0.5%) occurred at unknown times and were excluded from analyses.

39

38

28

27

MAY

JUN

17

JUL

42

36

51

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

AUG

SEP

8

OCT

NOV

DEC

JAN

FEB

MAR

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – RIP CURRENTS

APR


C A U S A L A N A LY S I S ALCOHOL & DRUGS 20 0 4 -20

WHAT ACTIVITY (N=503)

TOXICANT TYPE (N=503)

Alcohol and drugs were detected most in swimming/wading (23%, n=109), boating & PWC (21%, n=101) and fall and recreational jumprelated activities (17%, n=79).

The most prevalent substances in alcohol and drug-related coastal incidents were alcohol (58%, n=290), cannabis (20%, n=101), benzodiazapines (sedatives; 15%, n=77) and amphetamines (11%, n=56). Most alcohol-related cases (54%, n=274) detected blood alcohol concentration levels above the legal driving limit of (0.05g/100ml).

2%

5%

5% 23%

6%

6%

6%

47% SWIMMING /WADING

21% 17%

274

Alcohol > 0.05 101

Cannabis Benzodiazepines /sedatives

Swimming/Wading Attempting a Rescue Snorkelling & Diving Non-aquatic Transport Land-based & Rock Fishing Watercraft Falls & Jumps Boating & PWC Other

77 56

Amphetamines

52

Opioids 29

Antidepressants 16

Alcohol < 0.05

12

Cocaine

17

Other 0

PROPORTION OF ALCOHOL-RELATED DEATHS WHERE BLOOD ALCOHOL CONCENTRATION (BAC) WAS OVER LEGAL LIMIT BY GENDER

50

100

150 200 Number (n)

250

300

DRUG CONCENTRATIONS DETECTED ABOVE THERAPEUTIC LEVELS Both prescription and illicit drugs were detected at concentrations above therapeutic thresholds. However opioids and cocaine concentrations in particular were detected at levels significantly greater than what may be considered therapeutic (20 times and 14 times above respectively).

20.4x

Opioids

94% AVERAGE BAC

0.19

98% 0.22 AVERAGE BAC

Amphetamines

Benzodiazepines /sedatives

BAC 0.19 SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

6.9x

6.5x 0 5 10 15 20 25 Average drug concentrations (times) above therapeutic thresholds

The average blood alcohol concentration was 0.19, nearly FOUR TIMES the legal driving limit

13.7x

Cocaine

9

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – RIP CURRENTS


D R O W N I N G V S F ATA L I T Y 2 0 0 4 - 2 0 :16 Y E A R R E V I E W

D

rowning deaths are severe, accidental and largely preventable events that dominate the focus of coastal safety research. Our research has demonstrated that a significant proportion of unintentional coastal fatalities are nondrowning related and occur due to medical incidents and a range of injuries. The risk of dying from drowning or other causes increases with alcohol and drug use. This research investigates the frequency and nature of these preventable deaths that occur on the Australian coast. Between 2004-2020, there were 503 unintentional coastal deaths recorded on our coast with alcohol and drugs were detected. Over two-thirds were drowning deaths (68%, n=344), while the remaining cases were not drowning-related (32%, n=159). The main cause of death in these non-drowning related incidents involved blunt trauma injuries from falls, accidents and collisions. While most drowning deaths (70%) and coastal fatalities (74%) involved Australian-born individuals, approximately a quarter remain who were born overseas. Both alcohol and drugs were detected in individuals born in all continents. From a lifesaving perspective, the response to drowning deaths and coastal fatalities is similar but until now, most research has focused on drowning deaths. This research highlights the extent to which coastal fatalities, on top of drowning deaths, impact on surf lifesaving services and the wider community. Given that alcohol and drugs increase the risk of unintentional injury or death, continued awareness strategies that remind people to avoid mixing alcohol and drugs with coastal recreation are key to reducing the occurrence of these tragedies in the community.

MEDICAL & INJURY-RELATED INCIDENTS BY AGE Medical Condition

Medical Condition,Injury

None

Unknown

10 - 14 15 - 19 20 - 24 25 - 29 30 - 34 35 - 39 40 - 44 45 - 49 50 - 54 55 - 59 60 - 64 65 - 69 70 - 74 75 - 79 80 - 84 85+ 40

35

30

25 20 15 Drowning (n)

10

5

0

PRIMARY CAUSE OF DEATH Drowning is the most common cause of death in alcohol and drug-related incidents (68%, n=344), followed by blunt trauma injuries (15%, n=76).

5%

15%

3% 1%

7%

0 Age

5 10 15 20 25 30 Unintentional Fatality (n)

68%

PREVENTABLE ALCOHOL AND DRUGRELATED DEATHS WERE DUE TO DROWNING

68%

DROWNING 68%

Injury

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

10

Drowning Blunt trauma injury Cardiac Accidental poisoning Other medical Other injury Unknown

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – RIP CURRENTS


D R O W N I N G V S F ATA L I T Y 2 0 0 4 - 2 0 :16 Y E A R R E V I E W

ALCOHOL AND DRUG-RELATED DROWNING DEATHS AND FATALITIES BY BIRTH CONTINENT (N=402*) Australian-born individuals accounted for 70% drowning deaths and 74% other fatalities in which alcohol and drugs were detected, followed by European individuals (12% each). *Birth continent was known for 80% of cases. Twenty per cent (n=101) were unknown and excluded from analyses.

6.4% 4.4%

12.4% 11.9%

3.4% 1.5%

Asia

Europe

North America

4.9% 6.7%

1.9% 1.5%

Oceania

Africa 0.7% 0.0%

Latin America

70.4% 74.1%

Australia

Drowning Unintentional Fatality

PROPORTIONAL TOXICOLOGY FOR COASTAL INCIDENTS BY CONTINENT OF BIRTH (N=402*) Alcohol and drugs were detected in coastal incidents involving individuals-born across the globe in varied proportions. Alcohol was involved in more drowning deaths for Asian-born and European individuals and more unintentional fatalities of Australian, Oceanic and North American individuals. Alcohol was detected in all related incidents involving African-born individuals. Drugs

Alcohol & Drugs

Alcohol

100%

Proportion

80% 60% 40% 20% None recorded

0% Drowning

Fatality

Australia

Drowning

Fatality

Europe

Drowning

Fatality

Asia

Drowning

Fatality

Drowning

Oceania

Fatality

North America

Drowning

Fatality

Africa

*Birth continent was known for 80% of cases. Twenty per cent (n=101) were unknown and excluded from analyses.

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

11

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – RIP CURRENTS

Drowning

Fatality

Latin America


ALCOHOL & DRUGS SNAPSHOT C O A S TA L D R O W N I N G D E AT H S 2 0 0 4 - 2 0 2 0

DROWNING DEATHS

ACTIVITY Alcohol and drugs are detected most in drowning deaths that occur while swimming, wading boating & PWC activities.

1 17 55

61

17

0.10

Swimming /Wading

85%

58 29

Falls & Jumps

| 15%

DROWNING DEATH

344

AVERAGE MORTALITY RATE

25-39

20%

Boating & PWC

106

YEAR OLD MALES 45-54 YEAR OLDS

28%

TOTAL NUMBER AVERAGE

AVERAGE

AGE

NUMBER

45

Watercraft

7%

Land-based & Rock Fishing Snorkelling & Diving Attempting a Rescue Non Aquatic Transport

7% 4% 3% 2% 2%

Other

21

TOXICANT TYPE

14%

13%

Unknown 0%

5%

42%

15% Percentage

20%

25%

30%

COASTAL DROWNING DEATHS

Rate 42%

10%

Alcohol & Drugs

Alcohol

Drugs

30

0.15

40%

DRUGS

25 0.12 Alcohol Alcohol & Drugs Drugs

20 Number (n)

18%

10

3%

7%

15%

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

2012-13

12

23

20

30

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – RIP CURRENTS

24

17

15

6 2019-20

28

2018-19

27

2017-18

24

2016-17

19

2015-16

22

2014-15

20

2013-14

24

2011-12

27

2010-11

18

2009-10

0

2008-09

Beach Rock/Cliff Offshore Bay Port/Marina Jetty Other

2007-08

BEACH

46%

2006-07

46%

2005-06

14%

0.03

5

2004-05

10%

15 0.06

DROWNING LOCATION 5%

0.09

0.00


ALCOHOL & DRUGS SNAPSHOT U N I N T E N T I O N A L C O A S TA L F ATA L I T I E S 2 0 0 4 - 2 0 2 0

UNINTENTIONAL FATALITIES

ACTIVITY Alcohol and drugs are detected most in unintentional fatalities during boating & PWC activities, followed by falls, jumps and nonaquatic transport-related incidents.

1 10 37

38

20%

Falls & Jumps

3

0.04

Boating & PWC

42

83%

21 7

| 17%

OTHER FATALITIES

15% 8% 5%

Watercraft

159

AVERAGE MORTALITY RATE

19%

Non Aquatic Transport Swimming /Wading Snorkelling & Diving 4%

Land-based & Rock Fishing Attempting a Rescue

TOTAL NUMBER

3% 1%

Other

35-59

AVERAGE

YEAR OLD MALES 20-29 YEAR OLDS

41 AGE

AVERAGE

10

0%

5%

10% Percentage

15%

20%

UNINTENTIONAL COASTAL FATALITIES

20

41%

14%

NUMBER

TOXICANT TYPE

38%

11%

Unknown

Rate

Alcohol

0.08

Drugs

Alcohol & Drugs

41% 0.07

ALCOHOL 21%

Number (n)

15 Alcohol Alcohol & Drugs Drugs

0.06

0.05 10 0.04

FATALITY LOCATION 0.03

5

18%

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

2010-11

2011-12

2012-13

13

14

8

13

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – RIP CURRENTS

12

4

7 2019-20

10

2018-19

8

2017-18

16

2016-17

15

2015-16

13

2014-15

14

2013-14

10

2009-10

6

2008-09

47%

6

0

2007-08

BEACH

3 Beach Rock/Cliff Offshore Bay Port/Marina Jetty Other

2006-07

12%

47%

0.02

2005-06

10%

2004-05

5% 5%

4%

0.01


ALCOHOL & DRUGS HA Z ARD PERCEPTION

NCSS 2018-2020: HOW MANY STANDARD ALCOHOLIC DRINKS DO YOU THINK ARE REASONABLE TO CONSUME BEFORE UNDERTAKING THE FOLLOWING ACTIVITIES None /0 alcoholic drink

100

80

1%

19%

1 or 2 standard alcoholic drinks 0% 6%

2% 2%

2%

3 or 4 standard alcoholic drinks

1%

1%

13%

12%

2% 4% 8%

1%

1%

11%

15%

17%

19%

16%

28%

60

Number (n)

0%

1% 4%

4%

7%

5 or more standard alcoholic drinks

40

20

0

75%

76%

73%

73%

55%

78%

85%

86%

86%

Swimming /Wading

Surfing

Watercraft

Rock Fishing

Land-based Fishing

Boating

Snorkelling

Scuba Diving

PWC

NCSS2014-2020: HOW OFTEN DO YOU AVOID ALCOHOL AND/OR DRUGS BY ACTIVITY

100%

2% 3%

1% 2%

9%

13%

2% 3%

1% 3%

2% 4%

13%

15%

13%

2% 2% 8%

80%

15%

17% 19%

16%

19%

2% 2% 8%

1% 2% 11%

3% 3% 12% 6%

18%

14%

19%

Percentage

60%

40%

20%

0%

70%

66%

66%

62%

61%

73%

70%

71%

76%

Swimming /Wading

Surfing

Watercraft

Rock Fishing

Land-based Fishing

Boating

Snorkelling

Scuba Diving

PWC

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

14

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – RIP CURRENTS

Always Most of the time Sometimes Never Can't say


F E AT U R E : R I S K Y B U S I N E S S A L C O H O L , D R U G S A N D Y O U N G M A L E C O A S TA L D R O W N I N G

D

rowning is a leading cause of unintentional death, in which males are continually overrepresented. The male burden differs across age groups, with younger males accounting for a significant proportion of drowning deaths globally, with calls for targeted drowning prevention interventions worldwide. This pattern is also true in Australia, where the burden of male drowning is most pronounced in the adolescent and early adult years (15 and 34 years old). This increased risk of drowning in younger males is attributed to greater participation in aquatic activities (and therefore increased exposure), inflated confidence levels that do not reflect actual abilities and social determinants (i.e. peer pressure). This early adulthood period is also widely recognised as a life stage where the likelihood to engage in risktaking behaviours increases. Coastal environments are dynamic with many associated risks and hazards that need to be considered and are common locations of Australian drowning deaths. Many coastal visitors do not recognise or choose to ignore the associated risks and hazards, resulting in an average of 112 unintentional coastal drowning deaths each year. In Australia, young males account for 25% of the burden of coastal drowning. A recent study by Surf Life Saving Australia4 investigated young male coastal drowning deaths to examine the prevalence of risk factors, especially alcohol and drugs. The significant loss of young males and their contribution to society is certain to have ramifications for present and future generations. This research extends our understanding of coastal drowning deaths of younger males and is intended to guide the development and design of future effective, targeted educational messaging to prevent these tragedies. The results of this research showed that in Australia, young males drown more while jumping or swimming and wading in coastal waterways, especially at rocky or cliff locations, than other adults, but are significantly less likely to drown due to precipitating medical factors or organised and heavily regulated activities such as boating and scuba diving. Swimming, wading and jumping activities at coastal locations often involve the social context of a group of peers where behaviours could be determined as attention-seeking or as a demonstration of strength or abilities to peers. In terms of aquatic activities, swimming, wading and jumping are also less regulated (when compared with boating, scuba diving or rock fishing for example) such that they may more easily facilitate risky ‘larrikin’ behaviours that appear to be firmly engrained in the social norms of young males. Developing a better understanding of the social contexts surrounding these incidents is crucial for creating effective messaging, which is particularly challenging for this demographic. Young males were more likely to drown on a public holiday and during the afternoon, and less likely to drown in the morning. These patterns may reflect the influence of social and recreational

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aspects of coastal drowning where coastal participation and exposure rates may be higher in the afternoon or on public holidays when young males are more likely to be socialising and less vigilant regarding coastal safety. Public holidays in Australia are highly celebrated and are commonly associated with social events, aquatic recreation, travel to unfamiliar environments and higher use of alcohol and drugs. Alcohol and drugs are known risk factors for drowning and are commonly implicated in injury-related fatalities. Young males were 1.17 times more likely to drown after consuming alcohol than other adults, but blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) were significantly higher in other adults (four times above the legal driving limit with an average BAC of 0.20%). While the average BAC of young males was lower than other adults, it was still more than three times above (average BAC of 0.17%) the legal driving limit. These results confirm that alcohol remains a major risk factor for drowning across Australia and for the whole population, highlighting that this is not a problem specifically for young males. Young males were more likely to drown under the influence of illicit drugs, with amphetamines and cannabis more than doubling their drowning risk when compared with other adults. In particular, cannabis is identified as a substance of specific concern with concentrations significantly higher in young males, with the average cannabinoid concentration determined to be 8.79 times above physiologic, psychologic and psychomotor thresholds— further confirming the impacts drug-taking behaviour can have on functionality and our capacity to respond in dangerous situations. These results, along with the knowledge that these substances are illegal and are taken deliberately (and often in secrecy), emphasise the complications and challenges surrounding managing this concern. This research demonstrates the impact of risk factor combinations: that unsafe behaviours can prove deadly combined with certain activities (i.e. swimming and recreational jumping) or locations. A relationship between behaviours (alcohol and drugs) is proposed, where young males tend to drown more while participating in less regulated and more affordable activities, suggesting that underlying social determinants could further impact on these incidents and need to be explored further. Public holidays are significant times to increase awareness strategies, highlighting that alcohol and drugs are a risk factor relevant to the wider population – not just young males. This article has been adapted from Lawes JC, Ellis A, Daw S, & Strasiotto L (2020). Risky business: a 15-year analysis of fatal coastal drowning of young male adults in Australia. Injury prevention.

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REFERENCES

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTRALIA NATIONAL COASTAL SAFETY REPORT 2020 The Surf Life Saving Australia National Coastal Safety Report (NCSR) is published annually and contains information on Australian community behaviours and attitudes to the coast; SLS capability and membership capacity; rescues and emergency response; and coastal drowning deaths. The NCSR2020 presents statistics from the period of 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020. Trend analyses from all coastal deaths (drowning deaths and other fatalities) that have occurred between 1 July 2004 – 31 June 20 to explore causal factors over time are also included. All care is taken to ensure the statistical information included within this report is correct. However, pending the outcome of ongoing coronial investigations and as SLS state/territory entities update their operational information, this data may be amended over time. Data correct at 31 August 2020. Changes may occur at a later date. SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTRALIA NATIONAL COASTAL SAFETY SURVEYS The annual Surf Life Saving Australia National Coastal Safety Surveys (NCSS) collect Information about community swimming ability, behaviours and attitudes to coastal safety. The survey is conducted by Newspoll Market Research and Omnipoll and is run online over a four-day period each April among a national sample of approximately 1,400 respondents aged 16 and older. The study is carried out in compliance with ISO 20252 - Market, Social and Opinion Research. To reflect the population distribution, results were post-weighted (by age, gender, geographic strata and education) and projected to Australian Bureau of Statistics data. The data presented in the 2020 Coastal Safety Brief: Alcohol and Drugs has been derived from data extracted from multiple surveys, including Surf Life Saving Australia National Coastal Safety Survey (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020). Newspoll/Omnipoll Online Omnibus April 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020. Data illustrated in figures may not always add up to 100% due to rounding.

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REFERENCES 1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2017). National drug strategy household survey 2016: detailed findings. Drug Statistics series no. 31. Cat. no. PHE 214. 2. Alcohol and Drug Foundation https://adf.org.au/ 3. World Health Organization. (2014). Global report on drowning: preventing a leading killer. World Health Organization. 4. Lawes JC, Ellis A, Daw S, & Strasiotto L (2020). Risky business: a 15-year analysis of fatal coastal drowning of young male adults in Australia. Injury prevention. This publication is copyright. Except as expressly provided in the Copyright Act 1968 and the Copyright Amendment Act 2006, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in any retrieval systems or transmitted by any means (including electronic, mechanical, microcopying, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without prior permission from Surf Life Saving Australia. For enquiries concerning reproduction, contact SLSA on: phone 02 9215 8000; email: info@slsa.asn.au Every attempt has been made to trace and acknowledge copyright, but in some cases this may not have been possible. Surf Life Saving Australia apologises for any accidental infringements and would welcome any information to redress the situation. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Surf Life Saving Australia wishes to thank Frederic Anne (Omnipoll) for his contribution to this report and Melissa Conchar for design. SUGGESTED CITATION Cooney N, Daw S, Strasiotto L, Ellis A & Lawes J (2020) Coastal Safety Brief: Alcohol and Drugs. Surf Life Saving Australia: Sydney.

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