The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Kiwis didn’t spend their time drinking during lockdown, according to global survey

A global survey has revealed the vast majority of people (84%) have consumed the same amount or less alcohol during COVID-19 lockdowns.

The International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD) survey of more than 11,000 people covered nine countries, including New Zealand, and found almost one in three people (30%) said they are drinking less or have stopped drinking, and of those nearly half (46%) said they would continue to drink less when the restrictions were eased.

And the NZ Alcohol Beverages Council (NZABC) says these global results mirror what has been happening in New Zealand: 85% have consumed the same amount or less alcohol; 26% said they are drinking less or have stopped drinking.

Bridget MacDonald

“Even in the midst of a pandemic, Kiwi’s drinking habits continued to follow global trends with people making better drinking decisions that are right for their individual circumstances, lifestyle and social situation,” says Bridget MacDonald, NZABC’s Executive Director.

“Commentary on the initial queues and panic-buying of alcohol prior to lockdown implied that Kiwis would become a nation of out-of-control drinkers, but evidence shows this was simply not the case – we’ve continued to be moderate, responsible drinkers.

“Positive changes in attitudes towards alcohol have been evident for some time in New Zealand; consumers are choosing more no- and low-alcohol options. It’s a trend that’s being seen globally and driven by the younger generation – and it’s promising that people are signalling they intend to continue to moderate their consumption,” says MacDonald.

She says these results echo the general findings of a New Zealand government survey undertaken during lockdown that showed one-third of New Zealanders did not have a drink. Of those who did have a drink, around half were drinking the same amount as they usually do, and one-third of people drinking less.

The IARD research found that people aged under 35 years have been the most likely to give up drinking completely during lockdown, with more than one in seven (15%) abstaining from alcohol while they have been unable to socialise with friends at restaurants, cafes or bars.

Enjoying food and a drink with family and friends is part of our Kiwi culture and an important part of social wellbeing. Lockdown certainly affected people’s ability to connect with others. More than half (54%) of people surveyed said that they missed socialising and dining out at restaurants or bars, and nearly two-thirds (64%) missed socialising with family and friends.

While the majority of people surveyed drank the same or less, 11% (12% in NZ) said they were drinking more under lockdown, but of those, 72% (71% in NZ) said they planned to revert to their previous drinking levels. Five per cent reported their drinking had led to problems.

“We’re making good progress towards a safe and social New Zealand where Kiwis who choose to drink do so in moderation and as part of a balanced lifestyle, but there is still more work to be done to reduce alcohol-related harm and a need for targeted advice, education and support programmes to address harmful drinking. All of society has a role to play in supporting this,” says MacDonald.

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