We Provide
Current Issues


Spacer Spacer Policy Research

Economic Costs of Alcohol

The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit has conducted research in the area of economic costs associated with alcohol use. The focus has been to use survey data to add to the quantity and quality of information available on specific aspects of alcohol related harm and their costs.

In 1995 this involved research on the economic costs of absenteeism and reduced productivity in New Zealand using survey data collected from the four alcohol tracking surveys conducted in Auckland between November 1990 and May 1992. Respondents had given information about their typical alcohol consumption, frequency of absences from paid employment as a result of drinking and the number of times in the past 12 months when they felt their work had been impaired as a result of their drinking.

The cost of absenteeism was recorded as the number of times a respondents reported being away from work multiplied by gross income. Estimates of reduced work efficiency were derived from US figures which estimated a 25% reduction in work performance amongst heavy alcohol users. Nearly 4% of the sample reported alcohol-related absences and 12% reported reduced efficiency days. On this basis, the cost of lost productivity among the New Zealand workforce in paid employment was estimated to be $57 million per year.

Researchers: Sheilla Jones, Sally Casswell, Jia-fang Zhang


Alcohol & Public Policy

A literature review of research on the portrayal of alcohol in the mass media, including alcohol advertising, was undertaken as part of an international collaborative project on Alcohol & Public Policy, funded by the UK Department of Health, the Norwegian Government and WHO Europe.

This work received an extensive period of peer review during five meetings of the international steering committee for the APP Project and resulted in a chapter on 'Alcohol: Effects on Drinking and the Social Climate' in Alcohol Policy and the Public Good Volume I (Edwards et al, 1994) and a chapter on 'Public Discourse on Alcohol: Implications for Public Policy' in Volume II of Alcohol Policy and the Public Good (Holder & Edwards, 1995).

Sally Casswell also participated in the US National Institute workshop on Alcohol and the Mass Media, and this provided expert input into the design of much of the Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit's programme on alcohol advertising.

Researchers: Sally Casswell

Peer Review: International


Media Advocacy and Policy Development

The mass media are increasingly being recognised as an important strategic arena in which issues are contested by interested groups. How the media cover the issue of alcohol advertising and whether public health advocates use the media effectively has a bearing on what the public and policy makers perceive to be the main areas to be addressed. This research by the NZ Health Research Training Fellow examined the role of the news media in policy formulation, through a case study of the broadcast alcohol advertising debate.

The research examined news media coverage of alcohol advertising policy issues over a two year period to see how the issues and interest groups were represented. It also examined the imperatives of media organisations, the process of news production including source selection, criteria for news worthiness and notions of objectivity. The actions of news workers and interest groups in the alcohol field were also examined. The constraints and opportunities for interest groups to use the media to influence the policy process were examined in relation to four aspects of the alcohol advertising story which received some considerable media coverage. The qualitative methods used were content analysis and key informant interviews

The public health perspective was poorly represented in the mainstream media relative to the efforts made by the public health interest groups interviewed. In general, the vested interest groups preferred not to debate the issues in the mass media.

Effectiveness in getting news media coverage varied between public health groups and depended in part on regularity of contact with media personnel, investment in public relations, and the initiation of newsworthy events. Representation of public health issues were dependent on the news workers' adherence to notions of balance and neutrality and varied by media depending on the attitudes of the news workers and editorial policy of the media. Powerful interest groups were more likely to receive media coverage than those who were not. Interest groups who were perceived to be expressing the views of the general public were more likely to gain access to the media, as did those groups who had a conflict component in their story.

Researchers: Andrew Thomson, Sally Casswell


Alcohol and Taxation

The effect of alcohol prices on consumption is relevant in determining the potential impact of alcohol taxes on consumption, and thereby on alcohol-related problems.

The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit has undertaken analyses to examine the price-consumption relationship for aggregate data for New Zealand. Multiple regression analysis was employed using quarterly aggregate consumption and price data for 1983-1991. Price elasticities of alcohol consumption were estimated to be -1.1, -1.1, 0, -2.0 for beer, wine and spirits beverage, and absolute (total) alcohol consumption, respectively. This means that for beer and wine a 10% price increase was predicted to lead to an 11% decrease in consumption for that beverage.  A subsequent time-series analysis of alcohol consumption data for the decade 1984-1996 has shown an impact of real price on alcohol consumption.  Beer consumption was reduced by real price increases and wine consumption was increased by real price decreases.

These elasticity estimates and the degree to which prices explained consumption trends, suggested that price had a strong effect on alcohol consumption in New Zealand during the period investigated. It was therefore concluded that the current taxing policy, in which excise tax is indexed to inflation, is a useful tool for preventing an increase in alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems.  

Click here to see APHRU's submission to the 2001 Taxation Review Committee.

Researchers: Hilde Wette, Sally Casswell, Jia-fang Zhang

Peer review: Journals

Top | Back | Home