Statistics released today by the Ministry of Health today tell us a sad story about the health of our country. They comprise updated information on the drinking of New Zealanders collected in the New Zealand Health Survey in the 2020/2021 year.
In this year’s release, the numbers for the alcohol industry to latch on to and claim for a good sign, are small fluctuations in the numbers of people saying they had drunk alcohol in the past year.
Alcohol Action has a different view. There is nothing good to see here. Aotearoa New Zealand still has 824,000 hazardous drinkers, making up 20% of the whole population over 14, and 25% of those who drink any alcohol. We know that this means that the harm from alcohol continues unabated. There are still major inequities in the effects of the poorly regulated alcohol industry seen in these data, as in previous years. Māori and Pacific people are more likely to be harmed by alcohol, particularly men.
Professor Jennie Connor, a medical spokesperson for Alcohol Action NZ says “Hazardous drinkers suffer and contribute more than their share of harm from alcohol: accidental injuries to themselves and others, violence and self-harm, a range of chronic health conditions and damaged relationships and families. However lower level drinkers also suffer health effects from alcohol, and everyone is affected by the drinking of others. Babies born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder grow up facing life-long challenges.”
“The cost to New Zealanders is at least $8.75 billion dollars a year, and that represents a lot of services and amenities we are missing out on,” added Dr Tony Farrell, the AANZ Chair. “Any reduction in levels of consumption would take a load off health and social services and free up resources for our other health needs”
Alcohol Action NZ advocates for population-based policies to reduce consumption of alcohol and the harm that results. There is ample evidence of effectiveness to support the use of constraints on affordability and accessibility of alcohol, and elimination of alcohol marketing and promotion. Professor Connor says, “The proposed review of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 needs to be broad and thorough. It needs to use the science we have, and all the compassion we can find, to change these dreadful numbers.”
For further comment contact:
Professor Emerita, University of Otago
Spokesperson, Alcohol Action NZ
GP and Addiction Medicine Specialist
Chair, Alcohol Action NZ