Explore the National Drowning Report 2021

Fatal & Non-fatal Drowning
in Australia

Fatal and non-fatal drowning in Australia

When fatal and non-fatal drowning incidents are combined, a total of 968 drowning incidents occurred in Australia, representing a crude drowning rate of 3.77 drowning incidents per 100,000 population.

Drowning Deaths
By Life Stages

Children aged 0-4 years

Children ages 5-14 years

Young people aged 15-24 years

 Adults aged 25-64 years

Older people ages 65 and over

When, Where and How
Drowning Deaths Occur

When do drowning deaths occur?

Where and how do drowning deaths occur?


Rivers and creeks continue to be the location with the largest number of drowning deaths, accounting for 26% of all deaths. Swimming pools recorded a 17% decrease compared with the 10-year average, while beaches recorded a 25% increase and rocks recorded a 29% increase


The largest proportion of drowning deaths occurred in areas classified as major cities (36%), with the number of deaths decreasing as remoteness increases. The remoteness classification was unknown for one drowning death.


Swimming and recreating was the leading activity being undertaken immediately prior to drowning (25%), followed by boating (15%) and a fall into water (14%).

Fatal Drowning Risk Factors

Sex, age and socioeconomic status can increase a person’s risk of drowning, as well as the presence of pre-existing medical conditions and consumption of alcohol and/or drugs.

Pre-existing medical conditions

Those with known pre-existing medical conditions were mostly male (89%) and more than half were aged 65 years and over (51%).

The most common pre-existing medical conditions among those who drowned were cardiac conditions, such as ischaemic heart disease and coronary artery atherosclerosis. Cardiac conditions were recorded in 67% of cases where a pre-existing medical condition was known to be present.

Other commonly occurring medical conditions included mental health conditions (11%) and respiratory conditions (11%)


Alcohol was deemed to be a contributory factor in 64% of these cases

At the time of publication, presence of alcohol was unknown in 81% of all cases.

Alcohol consumption can increase the risk of drowning by impairing judgement and reaction time, increasing risk-taking behaviour and reducing coordination.


At the time of publication, presence of drugs was unknown in 83% of all cases

Medications can cause drowsiness, affect alertness and impair reaction time. Illegal drugs can numb the senses, reduce inhibitions and distort the perception of risk. There is also the potential for additive effects when alcohol consumption is combined with drug use

Full Report

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