Drinking trends in adolescents

Drinking in the past year, among 15-17 year olds

The 2018/19 New Zealand Health Survey showed that 58.3% of 15-17 year olds reported drinking in the last year.

This equates to 120,000 young people, which is 44,000 less than in 2006/07 (164,000)!

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. The New Zealand low-risk drinking guidelines recommend that for young people aged 15 to 17 years, the safest option is to delay drinking for as long as possible.

Hazardous drinking, among 15-17 year olds

We have witnessed significant declines in the prevalence of adolescents being classified as hazardous drinkers. 

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.

The prevalence of hazardous drinking from the New Zealand Health Survey is shown below. The prevalence of hazardous drinking among 15-17 year olds almost halved from 2006/07 to 2015/16.

Because the survey question changed in 2015/16, comparisons can only be made from 2015/16 onwards. This shows the following:

Drinking 6+ drinks on one occasion in the last month, among 15-17 year olds

The 2018/19 New Zealand Health Survey found that around 1 in every 13 (7.7%) adolescents (15-17 years) reported consuming 6 or more standard drinks on one occasion in the last month in 2018/19. Nine percent of adolescent boys and 6.2% of adolescent girls drank heavily (6+ drinks on one occasion) at least monthly.

Other surveys of young people

The National Youth Health Survey of a representative sample of secondary schools found that fewer students were choosing to drink in 2012 (61%) than in 2007 (45%).

However, adolescents who did drink continued to drink large amounts. Of particular concern, young adolescent females in New Zealand were shown to increase the volume of alcohol consumed between 2007 and 2012. It was suggested that young people were drinking on fewer occasions, but were still drinking heavily in a drinking occasion (i.e. the culture of heavy drinking and drunkenness had not really changed).

For more information on adolescent drinking, click the button  ADOLESCENT DRINKING