Past year drinking
In 2020/21, the prevalence of past-year drinking among New Zealand adults aged 15+ years was 78.5% (equating to 3,248,000 adults)
This prevalence of past-year drinking in 2020/21 was significantly lower than in 2019/20 (81.6%) and had returned to around the level of past-year drinking in 2011/12 (79.5%). Males (81.8%) were more likely to drink in the past-year than females (75.2%).
For more detail on past-year drinking, click here.
The overall prevalence of, and inequities in, hazardous drinking in the total population has remained unchanged over many years. In 2020/21, around one in every five (or 19.9%) New Zealanders had a hazardous drinking pattern. Males (26.9%) were twice as likely as females (13.2%) to be hazardous drinkers.
The number of hazardous drinkers in the population equated to 824,000 adults aged 15+ years. This figure is likely to be conservative given that population-based surveys typically produce underestimates of alcohol consumption.
Around 1 in every 5 New Zealand adults has a hazardous drinking pattern that places them and/or others at risk of harm
Note: ‘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. It is determined by using the World Health Organisation's AUDIT checklist - a score of 8 or more indicates hazardous drinking.
Whilst 18 to 24 year olds maintain the highest prevalence of drinking in the country (total 34.9%; 41% for men, 28.5% for women), hazardous drinking patterns remain prevalent throughout older age groups in New Zealand, particularly among men.
Inequities in consumption persist - in 2020/21 Māori (33.2%) were more likely to be hazardous drinkers than non-Māori, especially for wāhine Māori (24.8%) who reported a hazardous drinking prevalence that was 1.9 times higher than non-Māori women. Māori men (42%) reported a hazardous drinking prevalence 1.6 times higher than non-Māori men.
For more detail on hazardous drinking, click here.
Heavy episodic drinking at least monthly
In 2020/21, 21.4% of adults aged 15+ reported consumption of six more or more drinks on one occasion, at least monthly.
More than 1 in every 5 New Zealand adults report monthly consumption of 6+ drinks in one occasion
Very little overall change was found in the prevalence of heavy episodic drinking at least monthly. Compared to 2019/20, a reduction was observed in heavy episodic drinking at least monthly among Māori women (from 28.7% in 2019/20 to 23.3% in 2020/21) and among New Zealand adults aged 45-54 years (30.0% to 24.6% monthly, and from 19.0% to 14.9% weekly). We need to see future surveys to determine real trends.
Heavy episodic drinking at least weekly
In 2020/21, 12.1% of New Zealand adults aged 15+ reported consumption of six or more drinks on one occasion, at least weekly.
Around 1 in every 8 New Zealand adults report weekly consumption of 6+ drinks in one occasion
Likewise, very little overall change was found in the prevalence of heavy episodic drinking at least weekly. Compared to 2019/20, a reduction was observed in heavy episodic drinking at least monthly among the age group of 45-54 years (19% in 2019/20 to 14.9% in 2020/21). We need to see future surveys to determine real trends. Again, we need to see future surveys to determine real trends.
Alcohol use disorders
There is a lack of information on the number of New Zealanders with a diagnosis of alcohol use disorders.
In 2006, it was estimated that just over 4% of the population in their lifetime will experience alcohol addiction and 11% will experience alcohol abuse.
In 2006, it was found that 4.2% of the population reported symptoms of alcohol abuse (2.6%) or dependence (1.3%) in the past year. This equates to over 100,000 New Zealanders.
Every year (since 2011/12), the Ministry of Health carries out the largest survey into the health and well-being of New Zealanders. It is called the New Zealand Health Survey (NZHS).
The survey is designed to yield an annual sample size of approximately 14,000 adults aged 15 years and over. The data is collected at the respondents’ homes, with the interviewer entering responses directly into a laptop computer and/or asking the respondent to complete a section of the interview by themselves using the laptop computer. The 2020/21 survey, taking place during the pandemic, also used a computer-assisted video interviewing (CAVI) approach for a small sample of participants.
The NZHS 2020/21 represents the sample selected for the period September 2020 to August 2021. For some periods in 2020 and 2021, the survey was suspended in parts of New Zealand that had known community outbreaks of COVID-19. As a result, the sample size for 2020/21 is smaller than usual and the 95% confidence intervals around some estimates are wider than usual. The methodology report is available here.
In 2020/21, the final weighted response rate was 77%. The final sample was 9,709 adults aged 15 years and over.
Learn more here
What we drinkRead More...
Drinking in the past year
Trends in hazardous drinking
Drinking trends in adolescents
Drinking trends in older adults
Covid-19 and NZ drinking