13 July 2023: We’ve made the ‘2020 Health and Lifestyles Survey Top-line report’ available for download, which you can access from either the sidebar or the bottom of the page.

This top-line summary provides a high-level overview of results from the 2020 Health and Lifestyles Survey (HLS). The HLS monitors short, medium, and long-term societal changes in attitudes, knowledge, and behaviours related to mental health and wellbeing, tobacco use, vaping, gambling, nutrition, alcohol, and sun exposure. The HLS also tracks changes in views about the social desirability and acceptability of various strategies to minimise harm from these risk factors and promote wellbeing. This summary focuses on the prevalence of these risk factors, exposure to harm, and strategies to minimise harm.

The HLS is a nationwide in-home face-to-face survey of New Zealand residents aged 16 years and over. This survey has been carried out every two years since 2008, with the latest survey completed between 28 September 2020 and 4 May 2021 by 3,089 adults. Based on prioritised ethnic group categorisation, there were 992 Māori, 412 Pacific peoples, 225 Asian, and 1,460 people of NZ European/Other ethnicities.

Detailed information about the survey approach and sample profile can be found in the 2020 HLS Methodology Report.

HLS fieldwork was carried out by CBG Research. The write-up was provided by NielsenIQ.


Impact of COVID-19

Interviews for the 2020 Health and Lifestyles Survey were delayed for five months due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Interviews were then suspended twice in the Auckland region in response to the alert level rise to Level 3. At all other times, interviews took place at alert levels 1 and 2 with additional COVID-19 precautions in place. It is unclear what impact the delays to the survey and the pandemic response have had on the data. No adjustments have been made to account for the potential impacts of these delays and the pandemic response.

Overview of results

Follow the link to Kupe for the latest results including prevalence, subgroup comparisons, and time series analysis.

Key: Hover over me!

Mental Wellbeing

  • 3 in 10 New Zealand adults (31%) had an experience of mental illness throughout their life.
  • 1 in 8 (13%) had high to very high levels of mental or psychological distress in the last 4 weeks.
  • 1 in 10 (11%) had felt lonely some, most, or all of the time in the last 4 weeks.
  • 9 in 10 (88%) were satisfied or very satisfied with their life.
  • 7 in 10 (69%) agreed it is important to maintain a strong connection to culture.
  • 9 in 10 (86%) agreed they can cope with the everyday stresses of life.
  • 9 in 10 (88%) reported that their whānau were doing well or very well, with 4 in 10 (36%) doing better than 12 months ago.


  • 9 in 10 New Zealand adults (88%) had never smoked or were ex-smokers
  • 2 in 5 current smokers (41%) had tried to stop smoking in the last 12 months.
  • In the last seven days, 4% of New Zealand adults had someone else smoke inside their home while they were there, and 6% had someone else smoke inside a car or van while they were in the vehicle.
  • When current smokers were asked about which they smoked the most, 46% said they smoked tailor-made cigarettes, 39% rolled their own cigarettes, and 14% used a combination of both.


  • 1 in 4 New Zealand adults (27%) had tried an e-cigarette or vaping device.
  • 1 in 10 adults (8%) vaped at least once a month.
  • 2 in 3 vapers’ (62%) main reasons for vaping were to either stop smoking, reduce smoking, not return to smoking, or to use when they were unable to smoke.
  • Most vapers (84%) used nicotine in their vape.


  • In the last 12 months, 31% of New Zealand adults had not gambled.
  • 94% of those that had gambled in the last 12 months were non-problem gamblers.
  • Lotto, Strike, Powerball, Keno, or Bullseye had the highest levels of participation: 3 in 5 New Zealand adults (59%) played in the last 12 months.
  • 1 in 4 New Zealand adults (27%) had gambled online in the last 12 months.


  • In the last week, 1 in 2 New Zealand adults (48%) had prepared their main meal at home every day.
  • Of those who did not live alone, 57% ate their main meal of the day with most of their household for every day in the last week.
  • Most people used their own knowledge to prepare food at home (86%). Other common sources of information New Zealand adults used were magazines, books, and information on packaging (48%) and family and friends’ knowledge (47%).
  • Cost (61%) and quality (54%) had the most influence when buying food.


For the latest results related to alcohol, please see the Alcohol Use in New Zealand Survey (AUiNZ) publications.

Sun exposure

  • 2 in 5 New Zealand adults (18%) had tried to get a suntan in the last 12 months.
  • Nearly all adults (97%) used some form of protection to prevent sunburn.
  • During the warmer months, 1 in 2 adults (47%) experienced reddening and soreness due to sunburn, and 1 in 20 (6%) experienced blisters or pain.

Results presented here include “don’t know” and “refused” responses in the base.



Current mental distress
Current mental distress was measured using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10), a 10-item questionnaire (questions M1-M10) that is used in clinical practice to screen for distress. Scores range from 10-50 and have been grouped for analysis into no to low current mental or psychological distress (10-15), moderate (16-21), and high to very high (22-50).
Current smoker
‘Current smoker’ refers to someone who smokes tobacco at least once a month or more often.
‘Vaper’ refers to someone who vapes at least once a month or more often.
Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI)
The PGSI is a nine-item scale (questions G23-G31) that is used to assess people’s experiences of gambling-related harm in the last 12 months. Scores range from 0 to 27 and have been grouped for analysis into non-problem gamblers (0), low-risk gamblers (1-2), and moderate to problem gamblers (3 and above).
The AUDIT-C is a three-question (questions F14-F16) assessment tool that can be used to provide a quick assessment of how much and how often an individual is drinking alcohol. Scores range from 0 to 12 and have been grouped for analysis into non-hazardous drinkers (male 0-3, female 0-2) and hazardous drinkers (male 4-12, female 3-12). Generally the higher the score, the more likely it is that the respondents’ drinking is affecting their safety.

First published: 29 June 2022;