A Society Tolerant of Drunkeness

The Way We Drink, a survey commissioned by the Alcohol Advisory Council, explored the attitudes and behaviour of New Zealanders aged 12 and over towards drinking alcohol. The survey was conducted late in 2003 and presented in March 2004.

The survey found that New Zealand is a society in which many people are tolerant of drunkenness.

“Not quite half of all people aged 12+ (46 percent) agree with the statement, ‘It’s never OK to get drunk’, (conversely, 49 percent of all people aged 12+ disagree).”

More than two-fifths of people aged 12+ (41 percent) agreed with the statement, “It’s OK to get drunk as long as it’s not every day”. Almost one-in-10 drinkers aged 12+ (9 percent) admitted they “drink to get drunk”.

“As a result, it is a society in which many current drinkers appear to exercise little self-control,” the survey report said.

One-quarter of drinkers aged 12+ (26 percent) disagreed with the statement, “I try not to drink so much I forget what I was doing or what happened”. Almost one-quarter of drinkers aged 12+ (24 percent) disagreed with the statement, “I limit the amount of alcohol I drink so that I don’t wake up with a hangover”.

“(New Zealand is) also a society in which many adults who currently drink don’t appear to be concerned about their physical or mental well-being because of their drinking,” the survey report said.

More than one-third of drinkers aged 18+ (38 percent) disagreed with the statement, “I am concerned about the long-term effects of alcohol on my physical wellbeing”.

More than two-fifths of drinkers aged 18+ (42 percent) disagreed with the statement, “I am concerned about the long-term effects of alcohol on my mental wellbeing”.

The reported noted that New Zealand was “a society in which many parents don’t know about their children’s drinking . . . “.

“Although two-thirds of parents (63 percent) report they set strict rules about (their) children drinking alcohol, 21 percent admit that they do not. However, only one half (52 percent) agree they know when their children drink.”

New Zealand was a society in which the “benefits” of alcohol as a “social lubricant” and “relaxant” were recognised.

“Over two-fifths of all current drinkers aged 12+ (42 percent) agreed with the statement, ‘When I drink alcohol it is easier to meet and get to know people’. Two-thirds of drinkers aged 12+ (67 percent) agree with the statement, ‘Alcohol helps me wind down and relax’.”

The survey report says that the overwhelming conclusion is that young people who drink are more likely than adults to agree with the statements about the benefits of drinking alcohol, and more likely than adults to disagree with statements relating to the factors that inhibit drinking.

“Their state of mind is best summed up in the number that condone drunkenness (59 percent of all young people aged 12–17 agree with the statement, ‘It’s OK to get drunk as long as it’s not every day’).” Twenty-five percent of young people who currently drink also admit they do so “to get drunk.”