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Spacer Spacer Drinking in New Zealand
1995 National Survey
Summary of Findings


  • Of those interviewed, 89% of the men and 85% of the women were drinkers.
  • Men consumed 73% of the alcohol reported in the survey.
  • The median annual consumption reported by male drinkers was 7.4 litres of absolute alcohol. This is equivalent to 500 cans of beer a year, or a little over nine cans a week. (Survey respondents tend to under-report consumption.) The median is the level that half the sample is above and half below. This measure best indicates the behaviour of the 'typical' drinker.]
  • The 2.1 litre median reported by the women drinkers is about 140 glasses of beer or 140 140-ml glasses of wine a year, or a little under three cans of beer or glasses of wine a week.
  • The top 5% of drinkers consumed over a third of the alcohol, the equivalent of at least 48 cans of beer a week.
  • The top 10% of drinkers drank almost half of the alcohol, the equivalent of at least 31 cans of beer a week.
  • These top 10% of drinkers were predominantly male (83%).
  • Home production of alcohol probably accounts for about 3% of the alcohol consumed.


Drinking patterns

  • For the men drinkers, the median frequency of drinking was about once every two to three days, while for women drinkers it was once every five or six days .
  • 19% of the male who drank and 10% of the women who drank did so every day.
  • For the men, the median quantity consumed on a typical drinking occasion was 45 ml of alcohol, equivalent to three cans of beer. For women it was 31 ml, equivalent to two glasses of wine.
  • When asked how often they consumed six or more 15 ml drinks, almost three-quarters of men drinkers (74%) said they did so at least once a year, 41 % said they drank this amount monthly and 21 % weekly.
  • The 18 to 24 year old men were most likely to consume these larger quantities; 70% at least monthly and 38% at least weekly.
  • When women drinkers were asked how often they consumed four or more 15 ml drinks, 57% said they did so at least annually, 22% at least monthly and 8% at least weekly.
  • The 16 to 24 year old women were most likely to drink these larger quantities; 47% at least monthly and 20% at least weekly.
  • 31% of male drinkers and 14% of female drinkers drank enough to feel drunk at least once a month. For 13% of men and 4% of women this occurred at least weekly.
  • Of the 18 to 24 year old male drinkers, almost one in three reported that they felt drunk at least once a week.
  • Men were over two-thirds (71%) of those who reported drinking enough to feel drunk.


Location of drinking

  • Most drinkers (97%) had drunk at places other than their own home at some time during the previous year.
  • Only 6% of drinkers drank exclusively in their own home or in the homes of others.
  • Over half the alcohol was consumed in private homes. The men consumed 35% their intake of alcohol in their own homes and 16% in others' homes. For the women, the figures were 46% and 19%.
  • Pubs/hotels/taverns/bars, nightclubs, sports clubs and other clubs were the location for a third of men's consumption of alcohol, and just over a fifth of women's consumption.
  • The locations in which the largest quantities were consumed by the men were pubs/hotels/ taverns, others' homes, nightclubs, and sports or racing events. At these locations they typically drank the equivalent of four cans of beer.
  • Women typically drank the equivalent of about three glasses of wine (45 ml) at nightclubs and about two glasses at most other locations.
  • Pubs/hotels/taverns/bars, nightclubs, sports clubs and other clubs were frequently mentioned as the usual location for drinking larger quantities by those who drank larger quantities at least once a week (mentioned by 53% of men and 36% of women). Their own home was also frequently mentioned by this group (40% of men and 51 % of women).


Changes in drinking

  • Compared to a year ago, a third of drinkers said they were drinking less and 16% were drinking more.
  • Concerns about drinking and driving, health and fitness were most often mentioned as reasons for decreased drinking.
  • Alcohol being served at more of the social occasions attended was the most frequently mentioned reason for increased drinking. Other frequently mentioned reasons were having more money to spend on alcohol and increasing acceptability of drinking alcohol in a wide range of places.
  • 18 to 29 year old men who had increased their drinking often mentioned reasons relating to increasedavailability of alcohol:
    • the availability of so many places where it is enjoyable to drink,
    • the range of places selling takeaway alcohol making it easier to buy,
    • takeaway alcohol being more available when supplies run out, and
    • longer opening hours of places selling alcohol.
  • 12% of drinkers felt they were drinking more than they were happy with.
  • Men aged 20 to 29 years (24%) and women aged 14 to 24 years (16%) were the most likely to feel they were drinking more than they were happy with.


Alcohol related problems

  • People were asked about harmful effects from their own drinking in five areas of their lives: home life, friendships or social life, health, work or work opportunities, and financial position. More than one in four men (28%) and one in six women (17%) reported some level of harmful effect in the last year in at least one of these areas.
  • One in seven 16 to 24 year olds (14%) felt their drinking was having a large or medium harmful effect on their financial position.
  • Those interviewed were asked whether they had experienced specific problems in the previous 12 months as a result of their own drinking. One in four men (24%) and one in eight women (12%) had experienced at least three of the 14 problems asked about.
  • Younger people were more likely to report these problems. Over half of the 18 to 24 year old men and a third of the 16 to 24 year old women reported experiencing at least three. Over a third of the 16 to 17 year old males also reported this level of problems.
  • 21% of the men and 11% of the women had woken the next day unable to remember things they had donewhile drinking.
  • 16% of the men and 9% of the women had felt ashamed of things they did while drinking.
  • 12% of the men and 8% of the women had had a serious argument after drinking.
  • Men, who consumed around three-quarters of the alcohol, accounted for nearly three-quarters of the reports of problems arising from respondents' own drinking.
  • The top 10% of drinkers, who accounted for almost half the alcohol consumed, also accounted for half the reports of problems arising from respondents' own drinking.
  • 35% of the drinkers had driven in the last 12 months when they had 'probably had too much to drink'. Almost half of 20 to 29 year old men had done so.
  • 40% of the women and 37% of the men reported that the drinking of others had had a harmful effect in at least one of the three areas they were asked about: (home life, friendships or social life, and financial position).
  • 10% of the men and 5% of the women had been physically assaulted in the previous 12 months by someonewho had been drinking. Among 16 to 24 year olds, 22% of men and 12% of women had been assaulted by drinkers.
  • 11% of the women and 3% of the men stated that they had been sexually harassed in the previous 12 months by someone who had been drinking. Over a quarter (27%) of women aged 16 to 24 years had experienced such harassment.
  • 37% of those interviewed had been seriously concerned or worried about the drinking of friends, relatives or acquaintances in the previous 12 months.


Host responsibility

  • Questions were asked about responsible hosting practices, especially at licensed premises. The majority of those who drank at pubs, nightclubs and sports clubs thought that drunks would be served at these premises.
  • Although some of the 14 to 19 year olds had been refused entry or alcohol in licensed premises, the rate of refusal was low, even among 14 to 17 year olds.
  • 8% of the 14 to 19 year olds had purchased takeaway alcohol in the previous 12 months, and they seldom had had their attempts refused.
  • Police were not very often seen at licensed drinking locations, with their presence particularly low in sports clubs.



  • 4% of those interviewed had not consumed alcohol in the last 12 months, or had stopped within that period.
  • Of these abstainers, 65% (9% of the total sample) had never been drinkers. Some of these were 14 to 19 year olds; 7% of people aged 20 years and over had never been drinkers.
  • Most abstainers who had previously been drinkers had stopped once and never started again (83%).
  • Concern about effects on their health was the most common reason for stopping.
  • Of those who had stopped drinking, 25% had been assisted by friends and family, 17% by their local doctor,
  • 10% by a counsellor (not from an alcohol treatment service ), 8% by Alcoholics Anonymous or some other support group, and 7% by an alcohol treatment service. 59% had not been assisted by any of these when stopping drinking.


Regional and urban/rural differences

  • A regional analysis was undertaken on the basis of Regional Health Authority areas. On most questions there were no significant regional variations except for the Northern region, where the differences were in the Auckland urban area.
  • Aucklanders drank more frequently than others. This resulted in Auckland women consuming more per year than other women. However, Auckland men consumed similar annual volumes to other men because they drank smaller quantities than other men on typical drinking occasions.
  • There were a number of other variations by level of urbanisation, with men in rural areas likely to drink smaller quantities, less likely to have increased their drinking in the last 12 months. They were less likely to get drunk at least monthly, and reported fewer harmful effects from their own drinking of that of others. Rural men and women who drank larger quanitites were less likely to do so in public venues; and rural women reported the lowest level of sexual harassment from drinkers.

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