News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


New Zealand’s Risky Drinking Culture

New Zealand’s Risky Drinking Culture

Fifty percent of New Zealanders accept drunkenness as socially acceptable with 1.2 million believing that it’s okay to get drunk, 350,000 binge-drinking on their last drinking occasion and 275,000 setting out to get drunk on their last drinking occasion, according to research released by the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) today.

ALAC Chief Executive, Dr Mike MacAvoy, says BRC Marketing and Social Research’s The Way We Drink: A Profile Of Drinking Culture In New Zealand shows that drinking in a risky way is not just the behaviour of the very young or the dependent drinker. New Zealanders in all walks of life, all ethnicities, urban and rural, men and women, told us that getting drunk is okay, with the majority reporting they drink in a risky way.

“We commissioned research into drinking behaviours because we suspected that risky drinking is more widespread than we like to admit. What this research shows us is that drunken behaviour is a part of mainstream New Zealand culture. It’s not just the behaviour of young people or dependent drinkers,” Dr MacAvoy says.

“New Zealanders are concerned about young people’s risky drinking behaviours, and rightly so.
Fifty thousand 12 to 17 year olds are “uncontrolled binge drinkers” with a further 75,000 binge drinking at social events. But youth drinking culture mirrors an adult drinking culture. New Zealanders accept risky drinking and being drunk as a social norm, with significant numbers of adults actively setting out to get drunk,” Dr MacAvoy says.

“The culture of New Zealand drinking is our problem and we all have to change our patterns of drinking and tolerance of binge drinking and intoxication. New Zealanders must confront the reality of their drinking habits. I challenge New Zealanders to change their drinking behaviours. It is never okay to get drunk,” Dr MacAvoy says.


Background Information on the Research 4 March 2004


ALAC Chief Executive Dr Mike MacAvoy is available for interviews in Auckland on 4th March until 2.00pm and in Wellington from 5.30pm onwards. Please contact Belinda Airey on 021 369 082 or Lynne Walsh on
(04) 917 0512 to arrange an interview.


For a copy of the Executive Summary, go to

ALAC’s role

ALAC has a statutory obligation to promote more moderation and less harm from alcohol consumption. ALAC has the following goals:

New Zealanders experience less harm from alcohol consumption, their own and others

Mâori providers and Mâori communities work together to reduce alcohol-related harm for Mâori whanau

Pacific providers and communities work together so that alcohol-related harm for Pacific families is reduced

Parents, families, policy makers and communities work together with young people to reduce alcohol-related harm for young people

Drinking behaviours change so that incidents of alcohol-related harm are reduced

People with hazardous drinking patterns change them so that alcohol-related harm to themselves, their families and their communities is reduced

Policy makers, communities, service providers and New Zealanders are advised on ways to reduce alcohol-related harm.


The research was conducted on ALAC’s behalf by Wellington-based marketing and social research company BRC during the latter half of 2003. BRC interviewed 1,783 people by telephone and has an average margin of error of +- 4.8 per cent (at the 95 per cent confidence level).

Patterns of drinking

This research measured binge drinking as five “average drinks” or more for young people and seven “average drinks” or more for adults. ALAC has also commissioned additional research into what New Zealanders consider to be a “standard drink”. This is currently underway and initial results are indicating that New Zealanders regularly underestimate the quantity of standard drinks they’re consuming. This suggests that the findings released today are probably a conservative estimate of alcohol consumption in New Zealand. A standard drink contains 10 grams of pure alcohol and the easiest way to work out the size is to look on the label of the alcohol container. In other words, when people say they had “five drinks”, they may have had, say, seven “standard” drinks or more. For information on standard drinks, go to:

© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

Legendary Bassist David Friesen Plays Wellington’s Newest Jazz Venue

Friesen is touring New Zealand to promote his latest album Another Time, Another Place, recorded live at Auckland's Creative Jazz Club in 2015. More>>

Howard Davis Review: The Father - Descending Into The Depths of Dementia

Florian Zeller's dazzling drama The Father explores the effects of a deeply unsettling illness that affects 62,000 Kiwis, a number expected to grow to 102,000 by 2030. More>>

Howard Davis Review: Blade Runner Redivivus

When Ridley Scott's innovative, neo-noir, sci-fi flick Blade Runner was originally released in 1982, at a cost of over $45 million, it was a commercial bomb. More>>

14-21 October: New Zealand Improv Festival In Wellington

Imagined curses, Shibuya’s traffic, the apocalypse, and motherhood have little in common, but all these and more serve as inspiration for the eclectic improvised offerings coming to BATS Theatre this October for the annual New Zealand Improv Festival. More>>


Bird Of The Year Off To A Flying Start

The competition asks New Zealanders to vote for their favourite bird in the hopes of raising awareness of the threats they face. More>>

Scoop Review Of Books:
K Emma Ng's Old Asian, New Asian

This book, written by a young second-generation Chinese New Zealander, gives many examples of the racism that Asian New Zealanders experience. More>>