Drinking patterns

In general, Pacific adults are less likely to have consumed alcohol in the past year. In 2016/17, 60.3% of Pacific adults had consumed alcohol in the past year [84], which is a much smaller proportion than the total New Zealand population who were past-year drinkers (79.3%).

However, around 4 in 10 (38.8%) of Pacific past-year drinkers were classified as hazardous drinkers (AUDIT score equals or greater than 8) [84].

In 2016/17, Pacific adults drinkers were 1.3 times more likely to be hazardous drinkers than non-Pacific drinkers, after taking into account age and sex [84].

The prevalence of hazardous drinking among Maori drinkers was 41.5%, 23.6% in European drinkers and 11.9% in Asian drinkers [84].

Among the diverse Pacific population, Cook Islanders and Niueans were more likely to drink than those of Samoan or Tongan ethnicity [55].

Gender differences also exist among Tongans, with men being significantly more likely to drink than women [55]. 


Similarly to Pacific adults, fewer Pacific young people drink alcohol compared with the general population but those who drink alcohol often consume a high amount  [54].

According to the Youth 2012 national survey, half as many Pacific students reported using alcohol or binge drinking compared to 2001 [46]. An earlier study provided more details on drinking patterns among Pacific students, using the Youth 2007 national survey [46]. It found:

Around 32% of surveyed Pacific students reported binge drinking in the last 4 weeks (no differences by gender).

Around 42% of all older students (17 years) reported binge drinking compared with around 15% of younger students (13 years).

Students living in the most deprived neighbourhoods were less likely to binge drink  (~29%) than those from the  least (34.5%) and medium  (37.2%) deprived areas.

By specific ethnicity, Cook Island students had a higher prevalence of binge drinking (~39%) than Niuean (~32%), Tongan (~30%) and Samoan (~30%) students.

Alcohol harm

Pacific communities experience a disproportionate amount of alcohol-related harm compared to the general population. The ‘binge drinking’ pattern among Pacific population groups often results in more alcohol-related harms than those incurred by dependent drinkers [49,50], this includes:

  • Intentional injuries such as violence and self-harm [49]
  • Unintentional injuries resulting from accidents [49];
  • Relationship problems  [49];
  • Problems at work [49] ;
  • Neglect of family responsibilities;
  • Embarrassment from indulging in unusual behaviours [49].
  • Alcohol-related diseases or health-conditions at later stages in life [50].  

For Pacific young people, almost one in four Pacific students reported experiencing alcohol-related harm [46]. The most common reported alcohol-related problems were: doing things that could get them into trouble (29%), having unsafe sex (28%), having friends and family talk with them about cutting down on their alcohol use (26%), and getting an injury as a result of their alcohol use (25%) [46].  Alcohol use also influenced their performance at school (20%) [46].