30 April 2021

Just released Government research shows most New Zealanders drink at or below the recommended weekly limit of the Ministry of Health’s Low-risk Alcohol Drinking Advice. The research from the Health Promotion Agency says just over 80% of drinkers are staying at or below the recommended 10 standard drinks a week for women and 15 standards for men. [i]

The NZ Alcohol Beverages Council (NZABC) says a shift in social attitudes to drinking is contributing to people being more moderate and responsible if they choose to have a drink, with its own research showing 40% of people choose to drink low-alcohol beverages. [ii]

People are making better drinking decisions based on their personal circumstances and lifestyle. The majority of New Zealanders drink moderately and responsibly – but it is always helpful to use tools like the Low-risk Alcohol Drinking Advice to check how much you are drinking,” said Bridget MacDonald, NZABC’s Executive Director.

Bridget says the official advice also calls for two alcohol-free days a week, which the research says 92% of drinkers are doing.

However, NZABC says there is some confusion about alcohol guidelines, with the industry’s own research showing nearly half (49%) of Kiwis incorrectly thought that drinking anything more than one glass of beer or wine a day is, overall, harmful to your health.

“There can be social and health benefits from light to moderate drinking, but risks to yourself or others if you drink in a harmful way, so moderation is the key,” Bridget says. 

“For example, it is well established that, all things being equal, those that drink light to moderately tend to live longer than those that do not drink at all because of the positive cardiovascular benefits of drinking at this level,” says Bridget.

The research also showed that nearly two-thirds (63%) followed the ‘daily’ limit advice, which Bridget says could mean some people (37%) need to keep a closer check on how much they are drinking. 

“We still have room for improvement when it comes to one in five people drinking harmfully in the past year. But we are seeing positive trends such as a general decline in hazardous drinking, fewer younger people drinking, our consumption is decreasing, and per capita, we consume less alcohol than the OECD average,” Bridget says.  [iii] [i] New Zealand Health Survey 2019/20, November 2020, https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/annual-update-key-results-2019-20-new-zealand-health-survey Four in five adults (81.5%) drank alcohol in the past year and are moderate drinkers. One in five drank (20.9%) in a hazardous way. https://minhealthnz.shinyapps.io/nz-health-survey-2019-20-annual-data-explorer/_w_e434a146/#!/explore-indicators

[ii] NZ Alcohol Beverages Council, New Zealander’s attitudes to alcohol research, December 2020, poll of 1000 New Zealanders undertaken by Curia Market Research.

[iii] StatsNZ Infoshare, Alcohol available for consumption to December 2020 (published 25 February 2021), http://archive.stats.govt.nz/infoshare/. Alcohol available for consumption has been trending downward for a number of years. Data shows alcohol available for consumption was 8.719 litres per head of population (15 years and older) in December 2020 and 9.607 litres in 2010, resulting in a 9.2% decrease (see graph 1 below). There has been a 15.4% decrease since 1990 when it was 10.316 litres, and a 22.7% decrease since 1986 when the data was first collected where there was 11.282  litres per head of population (15 years and older) in December 2020. Note: The per head of population (15 years and older) is the measure used by the OECD.

OECD Alcohol Consumption, https://data.oecd.org/healthrisk/alcohol-consumption.htm. Alcohol consumption is defined as annual sales of pure alcohol in litres per person aged 15 years and older. The OECD average consumption is 8.9 litres/capita (aged 15 and over). New Zealand is at 8.8 litres/capita. See graph 3 below. Source: OECD Health Statistics, 2019. New Zealand figures as at 2018.


Need more information? 

 Check out cheers.org.nz and alcoholandme.org.nz for more information on what a standard drink is and how to make better drinking decisions.

A good rule of thumb is ‘Go no, low or slow’. It’s okay to choose no or low alcohol drinks. If you choose to drink, pace yourself and enjoy your drink slowly.

Ministry of Health/HPA Guidelines: Low-risk alcohol drinking advice to reduce your long-term health risks by drinking no more than:

Two standard drinks a day for women and no more than 10 standard drinks a week,

Three standard drinks a day for men and no more than 15 standard drinks a week,

AND have at least two alcohol-free days every week. 

Need help? 

Call the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, free txt 8681, or visit alcoholdrughelp.org.nz.