3 March 2021
Just released figures from Statistics NZ show New Zealanders are not drinking more during COVID-19 times. The alcohol available for consumption has remained relatively static with a slight decrease on the same period last year. There were 8.719 litres of alcohol available per head of population (15 years and older) in December 2020 compared to 8.752 litres in December 2019.
“What’s interesting is that we are seeing an increase in wine (+4.3%) and spirits (+5.2%) consumption and a decrease in beer consumption (-1.4%), though the alcohol available for consumption has remained fairly static over the past year,” says NZ Alcohol Beverages Council (NZABC) Executive Director, Bridget MacDonald.
“This supports what we’ve been saying for some time, that people aren’t necessarily drinking more – they’re just switching what they drink. Also, the health and wellbeing trend, particularly amongst young adults, is influencing demand for ‘better for me’ drinks, such as zero-alcohol beers (+105% since Dec 2019), lighter wines and low-alcohol seltzers,” says Bridget.
Bridget also says some of the rise in spirit volume can be attributed to what would normally be purchased duty-free moving into the domestic market since duty-free trade is virtually zero at the moment.
The consumption data aligns with research undertaken last year by the Health Promotion Agency that shows most Kiwis continued responsible drinking behaviours and attitudes during and after lockdown last year. Over lockdown, 36% of New Zealanders didn’t drink at all, one-third (34%) were drinking less, and nearly half (47%) consumed about the same. Post-lockdown saw drinking habits return to pre-lockdown levels for most New Zealanders, with two-thirds (64%) drinking at their usual (pre-lockdown) levels, and 22% reported drinking less than usual.
“Despite the pressures of COVID-19 continuing, Kiwis remain responsible and moderate drinkers and are making better decisions around alcohol based on their personal circumstances and lifestyle. As a result, hazardous drinking is declining, fewer younger people are drinking, and our consumption is decreasing and below the OECD average,” Bridget says.
“Alcohol can be enjoyed as part of a balanced lifestyle, but in these challenging times, it is important to take time to think about ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ we are drinking, consider no and low alcohol options, and check out online information and tools such as cheers.org.nz and alcoholandme.org.nz that can help us make better drinking decisions,” says Bridget.
Need more information?
• 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.
Call the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, free txt 8681, or visit alcoholdrughelp.org.nz.
Decreasing alcohol consumption: 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 when there was 11.282 litres per head of population (15 years and older) in December 2020 (see graph 2 below). Note: The per head of population (15 years and older) is the measure used by the OECD.
NZ consumption below OECD average: 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.
Health Promotion Agency, The impact of lockdown on health risk behaviours, 21 April 2020,
Health Promotion Agency, Post-lockdown survey – the impact on health risk behaviours, 28 July 2020 https://www.hpa.org.nz/research-library/research-publications/post-lockdown-survey-the-impact-on-health-risk-behaviours
No- and low-alcohol consumption: NZ Alcohol Beverages Council, New Zealander’s attitudes to alcohol research, December 2020, poll of 1000 New Zealanders: 40% of respondents say they drink low-alcohol beverages.
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 (Note: the results of the survey does not include information about people’s health during the lockdown in New Zealand)
NZ consumption below OECD average: 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. Source: OECD Health Statistics, 2019. New Zealand figures as at 2018.