By Eric Crampton 26/06/2013

I’m curious where Jennie Connor’s gotten her numbers for this one:

University of Otago Preventive and Social Medicine head Prof Jennie Connor, who is the chairwoman of a university group set up to tackle problem drinking, said students were drinking more heavily than they did 10 years ago.
”In the last 10 years, there has been an increase in how much they drink and the frequency of heavy episodes of drinking.”
”A larger proportion of all students drink and drink heavily. Not just at Otago but at all universities, and probably in the general population of young people,” she said.
The main driver of the change in drinking culture was the introduction of wine and beer sales in supermarkets and the lowering of the purchase age from 20 to 18.
”A whole new drinking culture has grown up around heavy drinking outside of a pub environment,” he said.
She was not quite so enthusiastic about getting more students to drink in pubs, but accepted there were more ”social aspects” that came with that.
”There is no evidence that drinking in pubs is safer, and most assaults that happen outside the home happen near pubs – the violence is usually outside rather than inside, when intoxicated people who don’t know each other mix together. ‘Supervision’ by pub staff is usually minimal at best,” she said. [emphasis added above]

I have no data on drinking by students at Otago, and it’s very likely that Jennie would have that kind of data if it existed. But she’s asserting that a larger proportion of students, and likely of young people in general, are drinking and are drinking heavily. And I do know the data on that one.

The MoH survey released a couple of months ago showed strong decreases in youth drinking. The survey said:

“The largest drop in past-year drinking was among youth aged 15-17, whose rate fell from 75% in 2006/07 to 59% in 2011/12.”

Hazardous drinking dropped among youths who do drink. As fewer kids drink at all, the proportion of kids in total reporting hazardous drinking is well down. The trend from 1996/1997 through 2006/2007 was pretty flat, then dropped substantially through 2011/2012.

And Jennie knows about that survey. She was quoted on it when it came out. She said:

“I was quite alarmed by the results. In particular, in the age 18 to 24, one in four women are drinking in a hazardous fashion. And for the men, it’s even higher – it’s over 40 percent. So I think we should be very concerned about that.”

She there didn’t talk about the time trend, but the time trend was the big story in that survey. Here are the Selected Key Findings; I’ve bolded the relevant time-series youth-related ones.

Selected key findings

  • In 2011/12, most adults had consumed alcohol in the past 12 months (80%). This is fewer than in 2006/07 (84%). Decreases in past-year drinking were generally seen across all age groups, but particularly among 15–17 year olds.
  • Among people who had consumed alcohol in the past 12 months (‘past-year drinkers’), one in five (19%) had hazardous drinking patterns. This is about 532,000 people.
  • Since 2006/07, the level of hazardous drinking among past-year drinkers has significantly decreased for men (from 30% to 26%), but not among women (13% to 12%).
  • People aged 18–24 years (particularly men) are at higher risk of hazardous drinking. Among past-year drinkers, about 44% of men and 26% of women aged 18–24 years have hazardous drinking patterns. However, the rate of hazardous drinking has decreased significantly in past-year drinkers aged 18–24 years from 2006/07 (49%) to 2011/12 (36%).
  • Māori have similar rates of past-year drinking as the total population, but have higher rates of hazardous drinking. Rates of hazardous drinking among Māori adults have decreased since 2006/07, (from 33% in 2006/07 to 29% in 2011/12).
  • While Pacific adults are less likely to drink alcohol, those who do are more likely to have hazardous drinking patterns (35%) than adults overall (19%).
  • People living in more deprived areas are less likely to have consumed alcohol in the past 12 months, but are more likely to have hazardous drinking patterns (18%), than people living in less deprived areas (11%).  

Perhaps Connor has a new survey that I’ve not heard about.

As for any links to the alcohol purchase age

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