Trends in hazardous drinking

In 2022/23, around one in every six (16.0%) NZ adults (aged 15+) were classified as hazardous drinkers. This equates to 670,000 adults aged 15 years and over. 

Around 1 in every 6 New Zealand adults has a hazardous drinking pattern that places them and/or others at risk of harm

Males were almost 2 times more likely to be classified as hazardous drinkers than females (21.7% as opposed to 10.3%). 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 2022/23 New Zealand Health Survey found that the highest prevalence of hazardous drinking was among Māori men (30.9%) followed by Pacific men (29%). Inequities still persist:

  • Māori men were 1.5 times more likely to report hazardous drinking than non-Māori men
  • Māori wāhine were 1.98 times more likely to report hazardous drinking than non-Māori women
  • Pacific men were 1.3 times more likely to report hazardous drinking than non-Pacific men

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 between 2006/07 & 2015/16, and between 2015/16 & 2019/20.

From 2006/07 to 2011/12, the proportion of adults classified as hazardous drinkers significantly decreased from 18% to 15%. 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).

The latest survey in 2022/23 shows a significant decrease in the overall hazardous drinking prevalence from the year before (16.0% down from 18.7%). More survey results using a larger sample size are required to determine if this is a trend.


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.

The prevalence of hazardous drinking among Māori wāhine significantly increased from 24.2% in 2006/07 to 29.4% in 2015/16. Since 2015/16, there have been no significant changes in hazardous drinking among Māori wāhine. 

Trends over time, by age-group

  • By age, 15-34 years

From 2006/07 to 2015/16

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. By 2015/16 the prevalence of hazardous drinking was significantly lower when compared to 2006/07.

From 2015/16 onwards

In the past six comparable surveys between 2015/16 and 2020/21, there were no significant changes in hazardous drinking in both age-groups, but the prevalence remained unacceptably high. In 2019/20, there was a significant increase in hazardous drinking among 15-17 year olds (from 6.3% in 208/19 to 11.6% in 2019/20), but this was only a one-off change. In 2021/21, the prevalence of hazardous drinking among 15-17 year olds was 10.2% but this was not a significant decrease from 2019/20. Results from 2022/23 (6.3%) show no significant movement from the year before (5.9%). As such, there is a need for further surveys to determine trends.  

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

  • 35 years and over

From 2006/07 to 2015/16

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 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

From 2015/16 onwards

Trends in hazardous drinking have stabilised in the past six years of comparable surveys (between 2015/16 and 2020/21), except for hazardous drinking among 45-54 year olds - there was a significant decrease from 28% in 2019/20 to 23.8% in 2020/21. There was also a big-one spike in drinking among 45-54 year olds in the 2019/20 result. The 2022/23 results are at 17.5% for this age group. This is similar to previous years and does not represent any significant movement from the year before.

Trends over time by ethnic groups and neighbourhood deprivation

Persistent inequities remain for Māori and deprived population groups. 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 2022/23 results showed inequities between rates of hazardous drinking among Māori and non-Māori. 


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 2022/23 represents the sample selected for the period July 2022 to July 2023. For some periods in 2022 and 2023, the survey was suspended in parts of New Zealand due to ongoing disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic and Cyclone Gabrielle. As a result, the sample size for 2022/23 is smaller than usual and the 95% confidence intervals around some estimates are wider than usual. The methodology report is available here.

In 2022/23, the final weighted response rate was 71% for adults, and 67% for children. The final sample was 6,799 adults aged 15 years and over.