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Potentially hazardous drinking

Definition

The proportion of the population aged 15 years and over who drink alcohol, who scored eight or more on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), as measured in the New Zealand Health Surveys conducted by the Ministry of Health in 1996/1997, 2002/2003 and 2006/2007.

The AUDIT is a 10-item questionnaire covering alcohol consumption, alcohol-related problems and abnormal drinking behaviour.

Relevance

Potentially hazardous drinking, defined by an AUDIT score of eight or more, is an established pattern of alcohol consumption that carries a high risk of future damage to physical or mental health, but may not yet have resulted in significant adverse effects.44 Alcohol also contributes to death and injury due to traffic accidents, drowning, suicide, assaults and domestic violence.45

Current level and trends

In 2006/2007, 22.9 percent of adult drinkers had a potentially hazardous drinking pattern, as indicated by an AUDIT score of eight or more. This was similar to the proportions recorded in the 1996/1997 and 2002/2003 surveys (22.3 percent and 22.5 percent, respectively).46

Figure H6.1 Potentially hazardous drinking among drinkers, by age, 1996/1997, 2002/2003, 2006/2007

Figure H6.1 Potentially hazardous drinking among drinkers, by age, 1996/1997, 2002/2003, 2006/2007

Source: Ministry of Health

Age and sex differences

For both males and females, the proportion of adult drinkers with a potentially hazardous drinking pattern is highest among those aged 15–24 years and declines at older ages.

In 2006/2007, male drinkers (29.2 percent) were significantly more likely than female drinkers (13.0 percent) to have a potentially hazardous drinking pattern. This was the case for all age groups and in each survey year.

Table H6.1 Proportion (%) of adult drinkers with a potentially hazardous drinking pattern, by age group and sex, 1996/1997, 2002/2003, 2006/2007

  Age group (years)
15–24 25–34 35–44 45–54 55–64 65–74 75+
1996/1997
Male 49.8 35.7 25.5 25.2 21.1 12.6 7.3
Female 31.6 13.9 8.1 6.0 1.8 1.0 0.8
Total 40.8 24.9 17.1 16.0 12.0 7.3 3.9
2002/2003
Male 45.8 36.1 28.0 23.5 18.1 16.4 4.4
Female 31.0 16.0 9.3 7.1 3.0 1.1 1.0
Total 38.7 26.1 18.7 15.7 10.8 8.7 2.7
2006/2007
Male 49.2 36.2 29.0 21.1 23.1 14.7 7.9
Female 32.6 18.2 9.5 7.3 4.3 3.0 2.5
Total 41.1 27.1 19.2 14.2 14.0 9.1 5.2

Source: Ministry of Health

Ethnic differences

Māori and Pacific drinkers are significantly more likely than drinkers in the total population to have a potentially hazardous drinking pattern. Asian drinkers are significantly less likely to have such a pattern. These ethnic differences are evident for both sexes.

Table H6.2 Age-standardised potentially hazardous drinking prevalence rate (%), for adult drinkers, by ethnic group and sex, 1996/1997, 2002/2003, 2006/2007

  European/Other Māori Pacific peoples Asian Total 15+
1996/1997
Male 31.0 46.1 48.2 11.6 30.9
Female 12.0 30.6 20.8 5.1 13.3
Total 21.6 38.3 38.1 9.4 22.3
2002/2003
Male 29.9 42.4 44.1 11.5 30.6
Female 13.3 24.1 24.3 4.8 14.2
Total 21.7 32.9 36.1 8.6 22.5
2006/2007
Male 32.1 46.8 46.6 12.9 31.2
Female 14.5 28.5 25.8 3.8 14.7
Total 23.1 37.5 37.7 8.9 22.9

Source: Ministry of Health
Notes: (1) Rates are age-standardised using the WHO world population. (2) People who reported more than one ethnic group are counted once in each group reported.

Socio-economic differences

The proportion of adult drinkers with a potentially hazardous drinking pattern in 2006/2007 was significantly higher (at 30.8 percent) in the most deprived small areas (NZDep2006 quintile 5) than in all other areas (quintiles 1–4), where proportions ranged from 19 percent to 24 percent.

International comparison

Because of the paucity of international data using the AUDIT method of identifying potentially hazardous drinking, this section uses OECD information on annual consumption of alcohol per person aged 15 years and over. New Zealand had the 12th lowest level of alcohol consumption out of 30 OECD countries in 2003–2009, at 9.3 litres per person in 2009. New Zealand’s alcohol consumption per person was higher than that of the United States (8.7 litres in 2007) and Canada (8.2 litres in 2009), but lower than that of Australia (10.0 litres in 2007), the United Kingdom (10.8 litres in 2008) and Ireland (12.4 litres in 2008). The OECD median in 2003–2009 was 10.0 litres of alcohol per person.47

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