Trends in hazardous drinking

In 2018/19, 1 in 5 (20%) NZ adults were classified as hazardous drinkers. This equates to 787,000 adults aged 15 years and over. 

Males were 2.1 times more likely to be classified as hazardous drinkers as females (27.5% vs 12.8%). Click here to see the full results from the New Zealand Health Survey.

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.


Comparison between subgroup (adjusted by age/sex/ethnic group):

The 2018/19 New Zealand Health Survey found that:

  • Males were 2.1 times more likely to drink hazardously than females  
  • Māori males were 1.4 times more likely to drink hazardously than non-Māori males
  • Māori females were 2.1 times more likely to drink hazardously than non-Māori females
  • New Zealanders living in the most deprived neighbourhoods were 1.2 times more likely to drink hazardously than those in the least deprived
  • Asian males were 73% less likely and Asian females were 87% less likely than non-Asian males and females to drink hazardously

Trends in hazardous drinking

Please note that due to changes in the NZ Health Survey, comparisons between years in hazardous drinking prevalence can only be done in the following time periods:

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. 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, European/other, middle-aged and older-aged adults).

Since 2015/16, the overall prevalence of hazardous drinking has stabilised in the overall population - from 20.8% in 2015/16 to 20% in 2018/19. During this period, no significant changes in hazardous drinking have occurred in any group characterised by age, sex, or ethnicity.


An increasing proportion of hazardous drinkers are women

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

Significantly more Māori women were drinking hazardously in 2015/16 (29.4%) than in 2006/07 (24.2%). From 2015/16 and onwards, there have been no significant changes in hazardous drinking in Māori women in the past four years of comparable surveys (i.e. 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18, and 2018/19).


Trends over time by age-groups

  • By age, 15-34 years

From 2006/07 to 2011/12, large reductions in hazardous drinking were noted in adolescents (15-17 year olds) and young adults (18-24 year olds). Both groups maintained their lower levels of hazardous drinking, and by 2015/16 the prevalence of hazardous drinking was significantly lower when compared to 2006/07. However, the prevalence remained unacceptably high.

Click this button for more information on TRENDS IN ADOLESCENT DRINKING.


  • 35 years and over

Older groups moved in a different direction. Following declines in hazardous drinking between 2006/07 and 2011/12, the prevalence of hazardous drinking increased from 2011/12 to 2015/16. These increases were substantial among the age-group of 45-54 years, 55-64 years and 65-74 years.

Therefore, all of the positive reductions in drinking that had been achieved between 2006/07 and 2011/12 were lost by 2015/16. Of particular concern, the level of increase was so great that some age groups (35-44yrs, 45-54yrs, 65-74yrs) had significantly higher levels of hazardous drinking in 2015/2016 than in 2006/07.

Click this button for more information on DRINKING TRENDS IN OLDER ADULTS

Trends in hazardous drinking have stabilised in the past four years of comparable surveys   (i.e. 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18, and 2018/19).


Trends over time by ethnic groups and neighbourhood deprivation

Persistent inequities remain for Māori and deprived population. From 2006/07 to 2011/12, the proportion of hazardous drinkers decreased in most of the ethnic groups. By 2015/16, the positive reductions made between 2006/07 and 2011/12 had been lost. Hazardous drinking among Māori women significantly increased in 2015/16 when compared to 2006/07.

The ratio of inequity in hazardous drinking is the highest for Māori women and for women living in neighbourhoods with high deprivation (in comparison to the relevant reference group).


DRINKING IN NEW ZEALAND