One in three New Zealanders drink dangerously through their entire lives – study
This article titled “One in three New Zealanders drink dangerously through their entire lives – study” was written by Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin, for theguardian.com on Friday 26th October 2018 01.16 UTC
One third of New Zealanders are drinking alcohol at hazardous levels for their entire lives, a new report has found, challenging the myth that dangerous drinking habits are usually outgrown after people leave their party years.
The study was conducted by Massey University’s School of Health Sciences and the University of Auckland’s Centre for Addiction Research, and disputes that hazardous drinking is a phase, usually associated with people’s teens and early twenties.
It found 33% of New Zealanders who were “hazardous drinkers” by their 20s continued dangerous drinking patterns for most of their adult lives.
Transitioning between hazardous and non hazardous drinking patterns was uncommon, the report found, with drinking habits, once established, largely becoming a “stable trait”.
“The idea that younger drinkers will eventually ‘mature’ out of risky drinking when they get older is wrong,” said research co-leader Dr Andy Towers.
“Our results suggest that, for the most part, we have quite stable drinking patterns across the lifespan – if you’re a hazardous drinker in your 20s then you are likely to be a hazardous drinker in your 60s.”
Hazardous drinking is established by a quantity or pattern of alcohol consumption that puts drinkers at risk of immediate harm (such as blackouts or hospitalisation) or long-term health issues.
The research drew on information provided by a longitudinal study of 800 subjects aged 50 plus, and allowed researchers to drill into intimate details of people’s lives that could have influenced their later drinking patterns including their home life as children, work history, health and relationships .
Risk factors identified by the study for becoming a heavy drinker included being male, starting drinking young, growing up in a poor household and having a parent who was a heavy drinker.
New Zealand has earned a reputation as a binge-drinking nation. A third of all police incidents in the country involve alcohol and on the weekends 60-70% of all emergency room admissions are related to alcohol.
“If our results indicate that drinking patterns don’t change much across our lives, then we need to ensure young Kiwis don’t start drinking like this in the first place.” said Dr Towers.
“This means using approaches that we know help to reduce rates of drinking and harms, such as increasing the price of cheap alcohol, reducing alcohol accessibility and advertising, and banning alcohol sponsorship of sports that children play.”
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