Jun 14 2018

While alcohol is consumed and enjoyed by most New Zealanders, well over half a million New Zealanders consume alcohol in a hazardous way. Boozing has become normalised in New Zealand, and that means it’s likely we’ll drink more – and at higher risk levels, new research says. One of the study’s authors, Massey University’s Docter Taisia Huckle, said: “What does normalisation look like? It looks like New Zealand. “We have a situation where alcohol is completely normalised in society, through advertising, marketing and availability, alcohol is reasonably priced.” School children could walk past three liquor outlets on the way to school or see advertising on social media, she said.

We’re a high-income country – and that means our drinking frequency is higher than middle-income nations, according to the researchers, who studied drinking patterns across 10 nations in a report published on Thursday in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review.

New Zealand is an example of a nation that has normalised alcohol, Dr Taisia Huckle says.

In May, a New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) document outlined the issue: “While alcohol is consumed and enjoyed by most New Zealanders, well over half a million New Zealanders consume alcohol in a hazardous way.

“Despite its normalisation in society, alcohol is not an ordinary commodity. It is a toxin, an intoxicant and an addictive psychotropic drug. As such, its sale and supply is subject to regulation in virtually every country. The current regulatory environment for the sale and supply of alcohol in New Zealand is not doing enough to protect New Zealanders from alcohol-related harms.”

And alcohol sales continue to rise. In the 12 months to March, they reached $1.6 billion – a $200 million increase from last year, Statistics New Zealand figures showed.

Huckle said the study found one in five Kiwi drinkers were consuming at risky levels that were placing them at risk for injuries, chronic disease, and harming others.

“A group of heavy drinkers consumed eight or more drinks on a single occasion (see original article).”

The research found countries such as England, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand were characterised by about half of the young men aged 20 – 24 years reporting higher-risk drinking. Older age was associated with drinking more frequently, but smaller typical quantities. In contrast, middle-income countries showed less frequent drinking higher typical quantities. However, lower frequencies meant the number of higher risk drinkers were lower overall.

In 2017’s annual health survey by the Ministry of Health, it was revealed one in five adults drank alcohol in a way that could harm themselves or others.

Despite there being more non-drinkers in the most socio-economically deprived areas, adult drinkers in the most deprived areas were nearly twice as likely to be hazardous drinkers than adult drinkers in the least deprived areas.​

READ MORE:
Dr Cathy: Alcohol and young people
NZ alcohol sales continue to climb
Changing the Kiwi booze culture

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