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Who’s drinking and how much

While most of us who drink alcohol drink in moderation, there's a reasonably large group of us who don’t.

Drinking too much can harm the drinker and others, including those they work with.

Who’s drinking?

These statistics are taken from the 2015-16 New Zealand Health Survey.

  • Four out of five (80%) adults (aged 15 - 74) drank alcohol in the past year, the same as the previous year.
  • 84% of adult men and 76% of adult women drank alcohol within the past year, virtually the same as the previous year.
  • 57% of young people (15-17) drank alcohol in the past year.

How often are we drinking? In the Alcohol Use 2012-13 New Zealand Health Survey, a third (31%) of drinkers drank alcohol regularly, at least three to four times a week.

Who’s drinking hazardously?

Statistics from 2015/16 show the hazardous drinking rate of all adults (which includes non-drinkers) has risen again, and is now 19% following a low of 15% in 2011/12.

'Hazardous drinking' in this context refers to an established pattern of drinking that carries a risk of harming the drinker's physical or mental health, or having harmful social effects on the drinker or others.

When non-drinkers are taken out, 24% of past-year drinkers have a hazardous drinking pattern.

  • Men – Just over a quarter (27%) of men were hazardous drinkers, compared to 12% of women.
  • Young people – Hazardous drinking rates are at 33% in young adults aged 18–24 years, which is lower than in 2006/07 when it was 43%. This group is also most likely to drink more than six drinks on one occasion (binge drinking) at least weekly (18%).
  • Mid-life adults – This rise is largely due to an increase in hazardous drinking by all adults aged 45–54 years, up to 19% in 2015/16 from 12% in 2006/07.
  • Socioeconomic – Adults in the most socioeconomically deprived areas were more likely to be hazardous drinkers (23%) than those in the least deprived areas (16%).
  • Maori – About one in three Māori adults (33%) had a hazardous drinking pattern, as did 21% of Pacific adults.
  • Pacific – While Pacific adults are less likely overall to have drunk alcohol in the past year (58%) than non-Pacific adults, those who do drink are more likely to be hazardous drinkers than non-Pacific adults who drink. The survey showed 41% of male Pacific past-year drinkers are hazardous drinkers.

Risky drinking behaviours – and their consequences

Drink driving: Drinking and driving is the most commonly reported risky behaviour associated with drinking. According to the Alcohol Use 2012-13 New Zealand Health Survey, one in six drinkers who drove in the past year have driven while feeling under the influence of alcohol.

Violence: Drinkers experience a range of harms (mostly physical) as a result of their own drinking. Also, a range of physical harm is experienced due to someone else’s drinking.

Health: Between 600 and 800 New Zealanders die each year from alcohol related causes. Nearly 1/5 of all deaths for men, and 1/10 of all deaths for women are attributed to alcohol use.

The alcohol.org.nz website has links to more alcohol statistics


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