Number of alcoholic drinks and time spent drinking on last occasion: 2014/15 ABAS

Number of alcoholic drinks and time spent drinking...
01 Mar 2016

The pattern of drinking alcohol on an occasion (how much a person drinks and how fast) is related to the level of intoxication, and the risk of injury (National Health and Medical Research Council, 2009). Low-risk alcohol drinking advice for adults on a single occasion is no more than four standard drinks for women and no more than five standard drinks for men (Health Promotion Agency, 2015). The Health Promotion Agency’s (HPA) Attitudes and Behaviour towards Alcohol Survey (ABAS) provides information on New Zealanders’ use of, behaviour, and attitudes towards, alcohol, focusing on use within the last month, and the last drinking occasion. This fact sheet reports on the number of alcoholic drinks consumed and the length of time spent drinking on the last drinking occasion involving two or more alcoholic drinks by adults aged 18 years and older.


Respondents to the 2014/15 ABAS were asked to describe what type of alcohol and how much of each type of alcohol they consumed on the last occasion they had two or more alcoholic drinks. The number of drinks from all drink types consumed was combined to determine the total number of drinks consumed1. The total number of drinks consumed was then split into three categories, differentiated for men and women, based on HPA low-risk alcohol drinking advice (Health Promotion Agency, 2015). The categories for men were: 2 to 5 drinks, 6 to 10 drinks, and over 10 drinks. The categories for women were: 2 to 4 drinks, 5 to 8 drinks, and over 8 drinks. Respondents were also asked how long the drinking occasion was (in hours).

The analysis was restricted to adult respondents (18 years and over) whose last drinking occasion was within the last three months (n=2,117). The number of alcohol drinks consumed was examined by age group for each gender. Time spent drinking was examined by gender, age group and ethnicity. Only statistically significant differences (p < .05) between groups are reported.

Key Results

• Of the adult respondents who reported having two or more alcoholic drinks on their last drinking occasion within the last three months, 56% reported doing so within the last week.

• Over two-thirds of men (67%) and women (71%) reported drinking below ‘risky drinking’ levels on their last drinking occasion involving alcohol. Risky drinking is defined as more than five drinks for men and more than four drinks for women (drinks are not necessarily standard drinks).

• Young adults (18 to 24-year-olds) were more likely than other age groups to drink at ‘risky drinking’ levels.

• The mean drinking occasion lasted 3.7 hours. Those more likely to have a drinking occasion lasting five or more hours were females, 18 to 24-year-olds, and Māori and Pacific people.

• The mean drinking rate was 1.6 alcoholic drinks per hour. Those more likely to drink at two or more drinks per hour were males and Pacific people.

Page last modified: 15 Mar 2018