MEDIA RELEASE: Drinking habits returning to pre-lockdown levels for most

27 Jul 2020

New Zealanders are returning to their old drinking habits now that the country has eased its lockdown restrictions. Two-thirds of adults are drinking at their usual (pre-lockdown) levels, according to a recent survey.

Te Hiringa Hauora/Health Promotion Agency commissioned Nielsen to undertake an online survey to compare how people were drinking in Alert Level 4 to how they’re drinking now in Alert Level 1.

Of those surveyed, 22% report drinking less than usual (down from 34% during Alert Level 4) while 14% report drinking more than usual (down from 19% during Alert Level 4). A higher proportion of Māori (32%) and Pasifika (44%) respondents continue to drink less than usual compared with pre-lockdown. However, the proportion of Māori respondents who are drinking more than usual has not changed since coming out of lockdown (22%).

Te Hiringa Hauora General Manager Policy, Research and Advice Cath Edmondson said “It is encouraging to see that some people who were drinking more during lockdown have started to reassess their drinking levels, but we are concerned about the 1 in 7 drinkers, and the 1 in 5 Māori drinkers who are still drinking more than usual.”

The survey also shows that many drinkers have cut-back on how often they are drinking, with daily drinking levels returning to pre-lockdown levels (from 19% during Level 4 to 11% during Level 1). Adults aged 25 – 64 years in particular have reduced how often they are drinking

“There are many long-term health risks associated with regular drinking, so this result is good news. This age-group also includes parents, so by drinking less frequently they are hopefully also reducing how often their children are being exposed to alcohol.” said Ms Edmondson.

The main reasons given for drinking less than before lockdown included not being able or not wanting to go out (36%), money (33%) and physical health (24%).

Reasons given for drinking more than before lockdown include helping to relax/switch off (66%), feeling stressed or anxious (46%) and being bored (31%).

“We understand it’s been stressful and continues to be an anxious time for many New Zealanders. We also know that regular alcohol use can have a negative impact on our mental health, weaken our immune system and increase the risk of chronic diseases like cancer. Drinking less helps you stay as healthy as you can and we encourage people to find alternative ways to de-stress and keep mentally well.” said Ms Edmondson.

More information on alcohol use and COVID-19, as well as ways to manage stress, anxiety or low mood without alcohol can be found at  

About the survey:

Impact of COVID-19 Study (Wave 2), conducted by Nielsen. Survey period: 10 to 19 June 2020.

Results are from an online survey of 925 individuals, which have been weighted to be representative of the total New Zealand population. The survey will therefore under-represent those with limited or no internet access, including older people and those living in rural areas. This survey was conducted from 10 to 19 June 2020 which corresponded with Alert Level 1 days 2 to 11. This was a follow-up survey from a survey conducted during Alert Level 4. The survey results represent a snapshot in time and further research is needed to identify if these changes in drinking will continue in the longer term.

For further information or comment, contact Te Hiringa Hauora Corporate Communications Advisor, Nicole Adamson on 021 459 167 or