Examining the relationship between heatwaves and fatal drowning: A case study from Queensland, Australia

Peden, Amy E., Mason, Hannah M., King, Jemma Chandal, and Franklin, Richard Charles (2023) Examining the relationship between heatwaves and fatal drowning: A case study from Queensland, Australia. Injury Prevention, 30 (1). pp. 7-13.

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Background: Globally, drowning is a leading cause of injury-related harm, which is heavily impacted by environmental conditions. In Australia, fatal unintentional drowning peaks in summer, yet the impact of prolonged periods of hot weather (heatwave) on fatal drowning has not previously been explored. Methods: Using a case-crossover approach, we examined the difference in drowning risk between heatwave and non-heatwave days for the Australian state of Queensland from 2010 to 2019. Heatwave data, measured by the excess heat factor, were acquired from the Bureau of Meteorology. Incidence rate ratios (IRRs) were calculated by sex, age of drowning decedent, category of drowning incident (International Classification of Diseases-10 codes) and heatwave severity. Excess drowning mortality during heatwaves was also calculated. Results: Analyses reveal increased fatal drowning risk during heatwave for males (IRR 1.22, 95% CI 0.92 to 1.61), people aged 65+ years (IRR 1.36, 95% CI 0.83 to 2.24), unintentional drowning (IRR 1.28, 95% CI 0.98 to 1.69) and during severe heatwaves (IRR 1.26, 95% CI0.88 to 1.82). There were 13 excess drowning deaths due to heatwave over the study period. Discussion: The findings confirm an increased risk of fatal drowning during heatwaves. With increased likelihood and severity of heatwaves, this information should be used to inform drowning prevention, in particular the timing of public awareness campaigns and patrolling of supervised aquatic locations. Conclusions: Water safety and patrolling organisations, as well as first responders, need to prepare for more drowning deaths during heatwave conditions. In addition, drowning prevention education ahead of heatwaves is needed for recreational swimmers, and older people, particularly those with comorbidities which may be further exacerbated by a heatwave.

Item ID: 80919
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1475-5785
Keywords: Case Study, Drowning, Exposure, Mortality, Policy
Copyright Information: © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2024. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.
Funders: Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
Projects and Grants: NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellowship (Grant ID: APP2009306)
Date Deposited: 14 Feb 2024 02:13
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410103 Human impacts of climate change and human adaptation @ 30%
42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4206 Public health > 420604 Injury prevention @ 70%
SEO Codes: 20 HEALTH > 2004 Public health (excl. specific population health) > 200406 Health protection and disaster response @ 100%
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