1. Deaths

In 2007, it was calculated that 802 New Zealanders under 80 years old died from alcohol.   This equates to more than one in every 20 deaths in this age group.

  • Injuries were responsible for 43% of alcohol-related deaths
  • Cancers were responsible for 30% of alcohol-related deaths
  • Other long-term diseases (e.g. liver disease, pneumonia) accounted for 27% of alcohol-related deaths  

Men were twice as likely to die from alcohol than women.

Cancer deaths

Alcohol is a Class 1 carcinogen. This means there is sufficient evidence to conclude that alcohol causes cancer in humans, as with asbestos, arsenic, tobacco smoke, Ionizing radiation, vinyl chloride and ultraviolet radiation A, B & C.

Alcohol consumption can increase your risk of the following seven types of cancers:

  • bowel
  • liver
  • breast
  • mouth
  • throat
  • laryngeal
  • oesophageal

In 2007, 30% of all alcohol-attributable deaths were from cancer. This was higher for women (44%) than men (23%). 

More New Zealand women die from cancer as a result of their drinking than from any other cause

One in every 25 deaths from cancer in New Zealand are due to alcohol use (for persons <80 years).

In New Zealand, half of all cancer deaths from alcohol were due to an average consumption of less than 4 standards drinks per day (i.e. 4 x 330ml (4%) beer or 4 x 100ml (12.5%) wine).

Of the cancer deaths caused by alcohol, breast cancer is most common.

In 2007, breast cancer was the leading cause of alcohol-attributable deaths in women over 30 years old. More than a third of breast cancer deaths in New Zealand women were attributable to drinking less that two standard drinks per day on average.

WA Alcohol and Drug Office 'Spread' ad by The Brand Agency

Road crashes

In 2016, alcohol and drugs contributed to 29% of all fatal road crashes in NZ.

Among young adults aged between 15 and 29 years, road traffic injuries led to more than half of alcohol-attributable deaths followed by self-inflicted injuries.


Alcohol is a major risk factor for suicide. In 2017, over one-third of people (31%) who committed suicide had alcohol in their system (and a further 26% had traces of alcohol in their system).

Among those who had attempted suicide and were admitted to an Emergency Department in 1999, alcohol was present for 29% of the presentations.

Other harms

There are many, many direct and indirect harms resulting from alcohol use. Drinkers should be aware that the harms are both acute and chronic, and don’t just relate to heavy drinking. Lower levels of consumption can also cause significant harm. 

Harm in our Emergency Departments

Alcohol-related presentations have a significant impact on the ED, particularly on weekends. Over 42 8-hour shifts between 15 November 2013 and 9 December 2013, alcohol-related presentations accounted for 10% of all presentations in the emergency department on a Saturday, increasing up to 25% during the night shift.

Another survey conducted in 2018, at 2:00 am Saturday 16 December one in five (17.2%) admissions to the ED were as the result of harmful alcohol use. This compared to around one in eight in Australia (13.3%).

Enough is Enough: Alcohol Harm in our Emergency Departments from ACEM Digital Media on Vimeo.

Click the image to download a bigger picture 

Between 600 to 3,000 babies are born each year in New Zealand with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

There is no safe level of consumption for adolescents given the irreversible effects of alcohol on brain development. As the amount of alcohol consumed increases, declines in memory recall and learning are shown. Female adolescent brains are particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of alcohol.

The more alcohol-related harms a young New Zealander experiences, the less likely they are to finish high school.

From January 2008 to December 2012 Police received 360,166 calls for types of events that are typically related to alcohol (approximately 72,000 per year).

Alcohol harms are more prevalent among drinkers living in the most deprived areas.