Harmed by alcohol, many say

One in three New Zealanders say they have been harmed by their own drinking of alcohol, a survey says.

The research found people most at risk of alcohol-related harm were young Maori men or those living in low socio-economic areas.

The survey, conducted by the University of Otago and published today in the New Zealand Medical Journal, found 33.8% of drinkers reported they had been adversely affected in the past year.

This included alcohol causing problems with work, studies, relationships, physical health or finances.

The most reported harm was to the respondents' health.

It also found 12.7% reported one or more specific alcohol-related "troubles", including problems with the law, illness, loss of a partner or friend or fighting.

Being involved in a fight while drinking was the most commonly reported alcohol-related problem.

Of those responses, 63.4% were from males, and a third were aged under 25.

"The odds of reporting a harm or trouble in the past year decreased substantially with age," the report said.

"Prevalence of harm and trouble resulting from drinking is high in the general population as judged by the drinkers themselves.

"These findings support the association of heavy alcohol consumption with increased risk of alcohol-related harm."

For both men and women, increased consumption of alcohol resulted in higher odds of having experienced harm or troubles in the past year, the report said.

"Respondents identified as heavy episodic drinkers were more than 4.3 times as likely to have experienced alcohol-related harm, and respondents with the highest level of daily consumption were 3.9 times as likely to report alcohol-related trouble."

Heavy alcohol use badly affected a "substantial proportion of the general population".

The report also said more men than women experienced harm but the prevalence of harm in women drinkers was "substantial ...drinking above the recommended limits is more common in women than men".

Alcohol-related harm was occurring across the social spectrum in both men and women, which meant targeted interventions and individual approaches were unlikely to bring about much change, the report said.

"...population-based strategies are the most suitable approach. The most effective population-based strategies to reduce hazardous drinking and associated harm are policy interventions that reduce the availability and promotion of cheap alcohol."

This week, the Government backed down on plans to restrict the sale and strength of "ready-to-drink" beverages.

The alcohol industry will now have the chance to introduce its own rules, but if they were ruled ineffective, the Government would have the regulation-making powers to limit the RTDs' strength and places of sale, Justice Minister Judith Collins said.


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