University students throughout the western world are well known for their drunken exploits. Until recently there has been little New Zealand information on student alcohol consumption and its associated risks.

How much is harmful?

Having 6 or more drinks on one occasion (4 for women) is internationally recognised as hazardous. This is often called “binge drinking.” Smaller amounts can be harmful if consumed quickly.

How much do New Zealand Students Drink?

 Waikato University Study

In 2000, the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (Audit) was used in a survey of 493 Waikato University students who use alcohol, to determine the prevalence of hazardous drinking: (1)

 Dunedin University Study

The Audit test was also used in a large survey of drinking prevalence and its harmful consequences in university halls of residence in Dunedin in 2000.(2)
The survey found that:

Why do Students Binge Drink?

• Students report alcohol consumption as being positive in peer interactions and an important part of growing up.

"It's just what you do when you're a student"

• Peer pressure and a culture of alcohol consumption on campus.

"I didn't want to stop partying. Everyone I hung out with
on the weekends was drinking. You feel out of place when you're not."(4)

• Academic stress

What are the Harms Associated with Drinking?

Students who binge drink “suffer a higher rate of educational, social, and health problems in comparison to their non-drinking peers.”(5)

Risks to health and well-being:

Of the Waikato drinkers surveyed, during past academic year:

In Dunedin, in the 3 months prior to the study:

 It’s Bad for Passing Exams

In Waikato, during academic year prior to the study:

The outcomes associated with drinking are “incompatible with the atmosphere required for optimal learning to take place.”

Student Understanding of Safe Drinking Practices

The study at Waikato University assessed students knowledge of safe drinking strategies:

 Developing a Safer Approach to Drinking


1. D. Adam, N. Welsh, C Pendlebury, K Merritt A Culture of Consumption: An Investigation into Alcohol Drinking Patterns Amongst University Students .Department of Psychology, Waikato, November 2000.
2. Kypri, K., McGee, R., Langley, J. D., Saunders, J. B., & Williams, S. (2002). High prevalence, persistent hazardous drinking in New Zealand tertiary students. Alcohol & Alcoholism, 37(5), 457-464
3. Habgood R, Casswell S, Pledger, M. et al Drinking in New Zealand National Surveys Comparison 1995 & 2000 Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit.
4. John Petrone Expelled by the University of Delaware The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 12, 1998.
5. Wechsler, Eun Lee, Kuo et al; "Trends in College Binge Drinking During a Period of Increased Prevention Efforts" Journal of American College Health. 50, No. 5, March 2002.

Updated: Dec 2002