Drinking trends in adolescents

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

The New Zealand Health Survey shows 44,000 fewer 15-17 year olds drinking in 2018/19 (120,000) 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 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 proportion of 15-17 year olds being hazardous drinkers almost halved from 2006/07 to 2015/16! The question in the survey then changed, so using the new question 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

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

Results from national secondary school surveys also show fewer students 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 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