Drinking patterns

In general, Pacific adults are less likely to have consumed alcohol in the past year. In 2018/19, 61.2% of Pacific adults (67.1% males, 56.4% females) had consumed alcohol in the past year, which is a much smaller proportion than the total New Zealand population who were past-year drinkers (80.3%).

For trends in past-year drinking, click the button PAST-YEAR DRINKING

However, more than 1/3 (37.5%) of Pacific past-year drinkers were classified as hazardous drinkers (AUDIT score equals or greater than 8).

In 2018/19, Pacific adults past-year drinkers were 1.34 times more likely to be hazardous drinkers than non-Pacific drinkers, after taking into account age and sex. The prevalence of hazardous drinking among Maori past-year drinkers was 40.0%, 25.0% in European past-year drinkers and 10.3% in Asian past-year drinkers.

For trends in hazardousd drinking, click the button HAZARDOUS DRINKING

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

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


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.

According to the Youth 2012 national survey, half as many Pacific students reported using alcohol or binge drinking compared to 2001. An earlier study provided more details on drinking patterns among Pacific students, using the Youth 2007 national survey. 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. Harms reported by Pacific drinkers include:

For Pacific young people, almost one in four Pacific students reported experiencing alcohol-related harm. 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%).  Alcohol use also influenced their performance at school (20%).