By Eric Crampton 20/09/2016

Whatever the survey, Alcohol Healthwatch is going to say it shows that the government needs to crack down on booze.

From RNZ’s reporting on the latest survey:

An alcohol watchdog hopes a survey that shows more than one in four teens aged between 15 and 17 often drink a risky amount of alcohol serves as a sharp wake-up call.

About 27 percent of the teens questioned for the survey, carried out for the Health Promotion Agency, said they had at least eight drinks the last time they consumed more than two drinks of alcohol.

More than 50 percent said they had had five or more drinks.

Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams said more needed to be done to reduce the availability and cost of liquor, and the marketing of alcohol.

Ok, let’s turn then to the survey. It’s the Health Promotion Agency‘s Attitudes and Behaviours towards Alcohol Survey (ABAS). Let’s walk it through.

Back in March, the HPA reported that:

  • 59% of kids aged 15-17 reported that they’re non-drinkers.
  • 13% said they had consumed, but not in the past month.
  • 29% said they’d consumed in the past month (56 kids)

There were 193 kids aged 15-17 surveyed. 60 kids reported having had a drinking occasion in the past 3 months in which they’d consumed two or more drinks; presumably 133 didn’t.  Of those 60:

  • 45% (presumably 27 kids) had between 2-4 drinks;
  • 28% (presumably 17 kids) consumed 5-7 drinks;
  • 27% (presumably 16 kids) consumed 8 or more.
Alcohol. Flickr / Czarina Alegre
Flickr / Czarina Alegre

The release on this week’s survey had a bit more detail on what kinds of alcohol were consumed by that group, but there really wasn’t much in there otherwise that wasn’t in the March release.

What about the time trend? None reported in the HPA survey. I think HPA runs ABAS regularly, but the only one I can find on their website with results for youths aged 15-17, other than the most recent one, is the 2013 ABAS. There:’

  • 48% of kids aged 15-17 said they had not consumed alcohol in the past 4 weeks because they were non-drinkers;
  • 14% said they drink, but hadn’t in the past month;
  • and 38% said they had consumed in the past four weeks.

The 2013 survey was a bit different on the risky-drinking question: instead of asking about whether the kid had an occasion in the past 3 months in which they’d consumed 2 or more drinks, they respondents how often in the past 4 weeks they’d consumed five or more drinks. In 2013, of those saying they had had any alcohol in the past 4 weeks (38% of the sample), 57% said they’d had five or more drinks at least once. In 2016, 55% of the 60 kids (31% of the sample) who’d consumed two or more drinks in the past 3 months had had 5 or more. That has to be a decline.

So Alcohol Healthwatch takes what looks to be a substantial decline in kids reporting drinking as reason for more controls on alcohol.
Oh, and remember too the NZ Health Survey. Drinking, and hazardous drinking, remains down among kids aged 15-17.  Here are the trends for that group.

Consumed alcohol in the past year Hazardous drinkers (AUDIT score ≥8, among total population) Consumption of 6+ drinks on one occasion at least monthly (total population)
2006/07 74.5% 19.5% 25.0%
2011/12 59.6% 11.7% 13.4%
2012/13 55.9% 8.0% 12.0%
2013/14 60.6% 15.3% 12.5%
2014/15 57.1% 10.8% 10.7%


Featured image: Flickr / Arvind Grover

0 Responses to “The ever-reliable Alcohol Healthwatch on teen drinking”

  • So, while Alcohol Healthwatch claim to be independent, they are ultimately tax payer funded via the ministry. Sockpuppets are great things.

  • Hi Eric – I think at best we can say the data is VERY course.

    There is a significant shift between the 06/07 results and the 2011/15 results. Something happened in there that is not identified.

    There is no real significant change from 2011 to 2015.

    There appears to be a change in methodology somewhere in that period. At a glance at the methodology (, the sampling methodology PROBABLY excludes those drinkers at high risk ie kids whose families do not have a landline and/or have a language barrier to phone interviews. With the total 15-17 yo’s sample being only around 200 respondents nationally, that would appear to be a limitation although I haven’t done the math.

    Does it warrant any further work? Who would know from this data?

    • Note that the reforms to the liquor laws made it harder for kids to get alcohol. Could explain that gap.

      • changed economic circumstances could explain the 2008 – 2011 drop. GFC was a thing as I understand it.

        More seriously, its likely there was a number of factors but the data is way too course to figure out what they might be.