New Zealand men are up to 12 times more likely to drown
than women and the misuse of alcohol is the prime reason across
all ethnicities, a University of Otago researcher says.
Dr James Croft discussed the findings from 3700 New Zealand
male drowning fatalities recorded by Water Safety New Zealand
during the past 30 years.
He was one of the speakers and more than 300 delegates to
attend the inaugural International Water Safety and Aquatic
Education Conference in Queenstown last Thursday to Saturday.
Dr Croft told delegates the Water Safety NZ database
contained information on the activity, alcohol involvement,
location, age, boat type, use of life jacket and ethnicity
for each drowning. Information was collected to profile
groups and improve the communication of water safety
Why men were more likely to drown than women was attributed
to several factors by Dr Croft.
Men were more exposed to water, more likely to be involved in
more likely to go beyond their limits and be alone while
Men were more likely to swim in lakes, swim at night and swim
in unpatrolled areas off a beach.
Men considered dangerous situations, such as their canoe
overturning in a lake, as not much of a risk.
The most common ethnicity to drown were New Zealand men of
European descent, followed by Maori, Asian and Pacific
Islanders. The same proportion were alcohol-related
regardless of which ethnicity they were.
Young men aged 15-24 were most involved in water sports and
recreation and were engaged in those activities before they
''Accidental immersion'', or falling into water, was their
next most common cause of drowning and 61% of those
accidental immersions involved alcohol.
Men aged 30-39 favoured underwater activities, such as free
diving, scuba diving and snorkelling, but the misuse of
alcohol was not a major cause of their drownings.
However, men aged 55-59 were inclined to go boating in rowing
boats and dinghies and consume alcohol on board.
Alcohol is over-represented in fresh water drownings.
It is a legal requirement to ''carry a correctly sized,
serviceable life jacket for each person on board a pleasure
boat'' and it is the ''skipper's legal responsibility to
ensure that life jackets are worn in situations of heightened
risk'' in New Zealand.
Despite this, only 50% of life jackets were used on power
boats, delegates heard.
Dr Croft said there were no cases of death by drowning when
alcohol was consumed and life jackets worn.