Fatal, unintentional drowning in older people: an assessment of the role of preexisting medical conditions

Mahony, Alison J., Peden, Amy E., Franklin, Richard C., Pearn, John H., and Scarr, Justin (2017) Fatal, unintentional drowning in older people: an assessment of the role of preexisting medical conditions. Healthy Aging Research, 6. e7.

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Background: The number of older people (aged 65 y and over) is increasing in Australia and chronic medical conditions are common. Aquatic activities provide physical and social benefits; however, understanding the risks related to aquatic activity is important for ongoing health and wellbeing. We explore the impact of preexisting medical conditions on unintentional fatal drowning among older people in Australia.

Methods: Using coronial, forensic, and medical histories from the Australian National Coronial Information System, all cases of unintentional death by drowning (or where drowning was a factor) among older people in Australia between July 1, 2002 and June 30, 2012 were investigated. Preexisting medical conditions were reviewed to determine whether they were contributory to drowning.

Results: Of the 506 older people who drowned, 69.0% had a preexisting medical condition. The leading contributory medical condition was cardiovascular disease, followed by dementia, depression, epilepsy, and Parkinson disease. All conditions except cardiovascular disease and depression were overrepresented compared with the proportion of the disease in the population. Falling into water was the most common activity immediately before drowning, especially among those with dementia, whereas those with cardiovascular disease were most likely to drown while swimming.

Conclusions: Preexisting medical conditions contribute to drowning in older people but with unequal contributions. With the prevalence of medical conditions expected to increase as the population ages, targeted education for older people will be important. Risk management will enable older people to safely participate in aquatic activities.

Item ID: 50142
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2261-7434
Keywords: drowning prevention, elderly, medical conditions, risk factors, water safety, dementia, epilepsy, Parkinson disease, cardiovascular disease
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2017 The Author(s). Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License 4.0 (CCBY-NC-ND), where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially without permission from the journal.
Funders: Royal Life Saving Society
Date Deposited: 12 Sep 2017 00:28
FoR Codes: 42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4202 Epidemiology > 420202 Disease surveillance @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9205 Specific Population Health (excl. Indigenous Health) > 920502 Health Related to Ageing @ 50%
92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920409 Injury Control @ 50%
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