Drinking in New Zealand

In 2017/18, almost 4 in every 5 New Zealand adults (78.7%) drank alcohol in the past year.

In relation to hazardous drinking (8 points or more on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT)), in 2017/18 [8]:

  • around 775,000 NZ adults were hazardous drinkers (19.8% of New Zealand adults 15 years and above)
  • more than one-third (38.1%) of young men (aged 18 to 24 years) were hazardous drinkers
  • males (27.3%) were twice as likely as females (12.7%) to be hazardous drinkers
  • young adults aged 18 to 24 years had the highest rate (17%) of weekly heavy drinking (six or more drinks standard drinks on one occasion)
 Almost 1 in 5 New Zealanders have a drinking pattern that places them and/or others at risk of harm

Drinking in the past year

The prevalence of consuming any alcoholic drink in the past 12-months is shown below:

Table 1. Prevalence (%) of past-year drinking among the total population, 2017/18 NZ Health Survey.

GROUP

TOTAL (%)

MALE (%)

FEMALE (%)

EST. NUMBER

Total

78.7

82.9

74.8

3,082,000

Age group (years)

 

 

 

 

15-17

57.4

54.3

60.7

113,000

18-24

83.6

84.6

82.4

398,000

25-34

79.6

84.4

74.8

557,000

35-44

82.3

88.1

76.8

482,000

45-54

82.9

86.2

79.8

529,000

55-64

80.5

83.9

77.3

466,000

65-74

77.6

82.7

72.8

331,000

75+

66.2

77.3

57.4

206,000

Ethnic group (total response)

 

 

 

 

Māori

79.7

80.1

79.4

396,000

Pacific

54.4

60.0

49.4

135,000

Asian

55.5

66.6

44.5

291,000

European/Other

84.9

87.9

81.9

2,535,000

Neighbourhood deprivation

 

 

 

 

Quintile 1 (least deprived)

85.8

92.1

79.8

678,000

Quintile 2

81.3

84.3

78.3

647,000

Quintile 3

81.4

84.7

78.3

642,000

Quintile 4

77.5

81.3

73.9

617,000

Quintile 5 (most deprived)

67.0

70.9

63.5

499,000

Statistically significant subgroup comparisons (adjusted by age / sex / ethnic group):

  • Men were significantly more likely to drink than women.
  • Māori women were significantly more likely to drink than non-Māori women.
  • Pacific men/women were significantly less likely to drink than non-Pacific men/women.
  • Asian men/women were significantly less likely to drink than non-Asian men/women.
  • Men/women living in the most deprived neighbourhoods were significantly less likely to drink than men/women living in the least deprived neighbourhoods.

Changes over time

There have been significant declines in past-year drinking, among most demographic (age, sex, ethnicity) groups in New Zealand. These reductions were particularly evident between 2006/07 and 2011/12, and especially among 15-17 year olds (from 74.5% in 2006/07 to 59.6% in 2011/12).

From 2011/12 onwards, this lower prevalence of drinking has been maintained. In 2017/18, the following groups had a significantly lower prevalence of drinking than in 2006/07: New Zealand total population; New Zealand men; New Zealand women; those aged 15-17 years, 18-24 years, 25-34 years, 55-64 years, 75+ years; Māori men; Pacific men; men of European/other ethnicity; women of European/other ethnicity. Compared to the previous survey, a significant reduction in past-year drinking was observed among Pacific men (from 71.3% in 2016/17 to 60.0% in 2017/18).

Figure 1. Unadjusted prevalence of drinking in the past 12 months, NZ Health Surveys 2006/07 to 2017/18.


Hazardous drinking

The prevalence of hazardous drinking in the total population in 2017/18 is shown below:

Table 2. Prevalence (%) of hazardous drinking, 2017/18 New Zealand Health Survey.

GROUP

TOTAL (%)

MALE (%)

FEMALE (%)

EST. NUMBER

Total

19.8

27.3

12.7

775,000

Age group (years)

 

 

 

 

15-17

7.2

7.8

6.7

14,000

18-24

31.7

38.1

24.8

151,000

25-34

25.3

34.6

15.9

177,000

35-44

22.0

29.1

15.4

129,000

45-54

22.2

29.9

15.0

141,000

55-64

16.1

25.2

7.7

93,000

65-74

12.5

19.5

5.9

53,000

75+

5.1

9.5

1.6

16,000

Ethnic group (total response)

 

 

 

 

Māori

31.7

38.7

25.3

156,000

Pacific

19.1

27.0

12.1

47,000

Asian

6.5

10.9

2.2

34,000

European/Other

21.2

29.5

13.3

634,000

Neighbourhood deprivation

 

 

 

 

Quintile 1 (least deprived)

16.2

23.9

8.8

128,000

Quintile 2

19.5

29.0

9.8

155,000

Quintile 3

21.4

29.1

14.2

169,000

Quintile 4

20.5

26.6

14.7

163,000

Quintile 5 (most deprived)

21.5

27.8

15.9

160,000

                 

Statistically significant subgroup comparisons (adjusted by age / sex / ethnic group):

  • Men were significantly more likely to drink hazardously than women.
  • Māori men/women were significantly more likely to drink hazardously than non-Māori men/women.
  • All persons/women living in the most deprived neighbourhoods were significantly more likely to drink hazardously than all persons/women living in the least deprived neighbourhoods.
  • Asian men/Asian women were significantly less likely to drink hazardously than non-Asian men/women.

Changes over time

As noted, changes in the NZ Health Survey only permit comparisons in hazardous drinking between the following surveys: 2006/07 to 2015/16 and from 2015/16 to 2017/18.

From 2006/07 to 2015/16

From 2006/07 to 2011/12, the proportion of adults classified as hazardous drinkers significantly decreased from 18.0% to 14.9%. Large reductions were noted in adolescents and young adults.

Adolescents and young adults maintained their lower levels of hazardous drinking, having a significantly lower prevalence in 2015/16 when compared to 2006/07. However, prevalence remained unacceptably high.

Older groups moved in a different direction. By 2015/16, hazardous drinking was significantly higher in the overall population when compared to 2011/12 (19.3% versus 14.9%). The prevalence of hazardous drinking among women significantly increased by 43% (from 8.6% in 2011/12 to 12.3% in 2015/16). In the same period, significant increases were found among those aged 35-44 years (16.0% to 22.3%), 45-54 years (11.7% to 18.5%), 55-64 years (8.4% to 14.4%), and 65-74 years (5.5% to 10.0%).

By 2015/16, most of the positive reductions made between 2006/07 and 2011/12 had been lost (except among young people). Rather, many groups had a higher prevalence of hazardous drinking in 2015/16 than in 2006/07 (i.e. Māori women, persons of European/other ethnicity, 35-44 year olds, 45-54 year olds, and 65-74 year olds).

From 2015/16 to 2017/18

Since 2015/16, the overall prevalence of hazardous drinking has stabilised in the overall population - from 20.8% in 2015/16 to 19.8% in 2017/18. During this period, no significant changes in hazardous drinking have occurred in any group characterised by age, sex, or ethnicity.

Changes over time in the prevalence of hazardous drinking in the total population are shown below:

Table 3. Prevalence (%) of hazardous drinking, 2006/07 to 2017/18 NZ Health Surveys.

 

Prevalence (%) over comparable years

Prevalence (%) over comparable years

 

2006/07

2011/12

2012/13

2013/14

2014/15

2015/16

 

2015/16

2016/17

2017/18

Total

18.0

14.9

15.4

16.4

17.7

19.311

20.8

19.5

19.8

Men

26.0

21.606

22.0

22.1

24.7

26.611

28.6

27.1

27.3

Women

10.6

8.606

9.1

11.0

11.1

12.311

13.4

12.4

12.7

Age group

 

15-17

19.5

11.7

8.0

15.3

10.8

11.506

7.9

7.6

7.2

18-24

43.2

29.9

32.4

33.4

33.9

32.606

37.1

32.9

31.7

25-34

23.9

24.8

24.4

23.9

21.9

27.614

27.1

26.3

25.3

35-44

16.6

16.0

16.6

15.9

19.5

22.306, 11

22.3

22.2

22.0

45-54

12.2

11.7

12.9

16.3

18.3

18.506, 11

22.9

21.0

22.2

55-64

12.1

8.4

9.1

10.1

13.2

14.411

16.4

14.8

16.1

65-74

7.3

5.5

5.3

5.7

8.8

10.006, 11

10.1

10.5

12.5

75+

3.6

1.6

2.0

1.8

2.8

2.9

4.4

4.1

5.1

Ethnic group

 

Total Māori

33.5

28.606

30.6

30.9

32.4

32.911

31.1

33.0

31.7

Māori men

43.5

37.1

38.8

37.2

38.4

36.9

37.9

39.0

38.7

Māori women

24.2

20.9

23.1

25.2

27.0

29.406, 11

24.8

27.6

25.3

 

 

Total Pacific

23.4

19.3

17.2

20.1

23.4

21.1

23.5

23.4

19.1

Pacific men

33.7

29.6

27.4

27.0

34.8

29.4

36.0

32.3

27.0

Pacific women

14.0

10.7

8.6

13.7

13.7

13.3

14.1

15.2

12.1

 

 

Total Asian

5.7

4.2

5.1

3.7

4.7

4.7

7.2

6.6

6.5

Asian men

10.1

6.9

7.8

4.7

7.6

7.2

11.7

9.7

10.9

Asian women

1.8

1.8

2.2

2.6

1.7

2.0

2.2

3.2

2.2

 

 

Total European/Other

17.9

14.8

15.2

16.7

17.9

20.406, 11,14

21.8

20.0

21.2

European/Other men

26.2

21.8

22.3

22.9

25.7

29.011,14

30.4

28.4

29.5

European/Other women

10.2

8.1

8.6

10.8

10.4

12.311

13.9

12.2

13.3

Neighbourhood deprivation (1=low, 5=high)

 

Quintile 1 men

24.9

16.5

17.7

18.0

20.7

24.2

24.7

23.5

23.9

Quintile 2 men

22.4

21.8

22.2

19.6

21.0

27.5

25.0

21.1

29.0

Quintile 3 men

25.9

20.3

19.9

24.5

25.4

24.6

29.5

29.8

29.1

Quintile 4 men

27.2

25.7

24.5

22.7

28.2

27.1

30.5

30.2

36.6

Quintile 5 men

30.1

24.8

26.8

26.1

29.1

30.1

34.3

31.4

27.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quintile 1 women

9.0

3.9

5.6

7.1

6.7

7.6

13.6

9.5

8.8

Quintile 2 women

8.8

7.4

7.0

9.5

8.7

13.3

9.6

9.7

9.8

Quintile 3 women

9.4

8.2

8.5

11.8

8.8

9.7

13.9

13.8

14.2

Quintile 4 women

10.3

11.3

9.5

10.4

13.7

15.0

13.7

13.4

14.7

Quintile 5 women

15.8

12.2

15.1

16.6

17.5

15.8

16.1

15.5

15.9

                       

06 significantly lower than 2006/07

06 significantly higher than 2006/07

11  significantly higher than in 2011/12

14  significantly higher than in 2014/15

Note: changes over time are not analysed by Neighbourhood Deprivation. Limited subgroup comparisons were made between the 2006/07 and 2011/12 surveys - only the significant changes noted in the 2011/12 survey report are shown.

 

Women are becoming a higher proportion of hazardous drinkers

The proportion of all hazardous drinkers that are women increased from 28.5% in 2011/12 to 31.6% in 2015/16.

Significantly more Maori women are drinking hazardously in 2015/16 (29.4%) than in 2006/07 (24.2%).


Adolescent drinking

Drinking in the last 12 months among 15-17 year olds

The New Zealand Health Survey shows 50,000 fewer 15-17 year olds drinking in 2016/17 than 2006/07. This is a fantastic change to see - but we still have a long way to go as over half of all young people in this age group are drinking.

Year Males Females Total #
2006/07 75.3 73.8 74.4 164,000
2011/12 59.8 59.3 59.6 115,000
2012/13 57.1 54.7 55.9 104,000
2013/14 59.0 62.4 60.6 116,000
2014/15 56.4 57.8 57.1 111,000
2015/16 56.2 58.2 57.2 114,000
2016/17 56.1 56.6 56.3 110,000
2017/18 54.3 60.7 57.4 113,000

Hazardous drinking among 15-17 year olds

We have witnessed great declines in the prevalence of young people being classified as a hazardous drinker.  ‘Hazardous drinking’ refers to an established alcohol drinking pattern that carries a risk of harming the drinker’s physical or mental health or having harmful social effects on the drinker or others. 

The prevalence of hazardous drinking from the New Zealand Health Survey is shown below. The number of hazardous drinkers almost halved from 2006/07 to 2015/16! 

Year Males Females Total Estimated #
2006/07 21.3 17.6 19.5 43,000
2011/12 13.5 9.9 11.7 23,000
2012/13 10.7 5.1 8 15,000
2013/14 14.5 16.2 15.3 29,000
2014/15 11.5 10.1 10.8 21,000
2015/16 14.5 8.5 11.5 24,000

The question in the survey then changed, so using the new question only comparisons can be made from 2015/16 onwards. This shows the following:

Year Males Females Total Estimated #
2015/16 9 6.7 7.9 15,000
2016/17 7.7 7.5 7.6 15,000
2017/18 7.8 6.7 7.2 14,000

Among all secondary school students (not just those aged 15-17 years), fewer were choosing to drink in 2012 (61%) than in 2007 (45%).

However, adolescents who do drink continue to drink large amounts. Of particular concern, young adolescent females in New Zealand may actually be increasing the volume of alcohol they consume when drinking [9]. It is believed that young people are drinking on fewer occasions, but are still drinking heavily (i.e. the culture of heavy drinking and drunkenness has not really changed).
For more information on adolescent drinking, click the button  ADOLESCENT DRINKING


 

What we drink

In 2017, 476 million litres of alcoholic drinks were available for sale in New Zealand [7]:

  • 289 million litres of beer (12.6 million litres of pure alcohol)
  • 111 million litres of wine (11.5 million litres of pure alcohol)
  • 77 million litres or spirits and spirit-based drinks (10.1 million litres of pure alcohol).

This is a small (0.5%) increase from 2016 (474 million litres) [55].

By volume, we drink more beer (289m litres) than wine (111m litres) or spirits (77m litres).

However, the share of pure alcohol being consumed is almost equal across beer (12.6m litres), wine (11.5m litres) and spirits (10.1m litres).

A consumption of 476 million litres equates to 34 million litres of pure alcohol, or 8.8 litres of pure alcohol per person aged 15 and above [7].  To put this into perspective, it is the same as every person aged over 18 years consuming two standard drinks per person every day of the year (i.e. 2 cans of beer (330ml, 4% alcohol) or 2 glasses of wine (12.5%; 100ml) [7]).

However, in reality we know that approximately 42% of all alcohol sold in New Zealand is consumed in heavy drinking occasions [ref}.


New Zealand drinking compared to other countries

New Zealanders typically drink a large amount of alcohol in a drinking occasion. Although we drink less (overall) than the Irish and British (and slightly less than Australians), we drink more than Americans, Canadians and South Africans. 

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click here for references