High levels of hazardous drinking in Taranaki

7 August 2014

Alcohol, while enjoyed by many people, causes significant harm to individuals, families and communities in Taranaki.

Jonathan Jarman TDHB’s Medical Officer of Health said that most people in New Zealand have had personal experience with the adverse effects of alcohol with someone they know or love. 

“It is something we read about in the newspaper virtually every day.”

“Alcohol not only affects the person who is drinking.  Family and children, friends and associates, innocent bystanders and communities can also suffer alcohol-related harm,” commented Dr Jarman.

Alcohol has the potential to cause direct health harm in three main ways; intoxication (immediate), toxicity (immediate and long-term) and dependence (long-term). The overall cost of alcohol-related harm to New Zealand was estimated to be $4.4 billion in 2005/06.

Taranaki has higher rates of hazardous drinking than the national average.  Dr Jarman said that the 2011-2013 New Zealand Health Survey found that one in five Taranaki adults regularly drank alcohol at levels that were considered hazardous. 
A study at the Emergency Department of Taranaki Base Hospital for two 3 week periods in 2011 found that the overall proportion of intoxicated persons over the age of 15 years presenting with injuries was 12.8%. 

“It was estimated these alcohol-related injuries presenting to ED alone cost the District Health Board approximately $345,348 per year. “

“This cost to the health system is only the tip of the iceberg” said Dr Jarman.  “It did not include patients who see their GP only, those who needed to be admitted to hospital, and of course it did not include all the ACC costs.”

“The ED data is interesting because it shows that the highest proportion of presentations were in the early hours of the morning (1.00am to 4.00am.).” 

“Alcohol has impacts beyond drunken people fighting, hurting themselves and causing car crashes.  For example alcohol is a proven carcinogen. It is an important risk factor for breast cancer. Studies show
that he more women drink, the more likely it is that they will suffer breast cancer.”

Alcohol also has effects on babies if their mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy.  Dr Jarman said, “a study carried out in 2006 found that one out of every 10 babies born in Taranaki was at risk of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.  Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a leading cause of preventable mental retardation.”

Dr Jarman said evidence shows that a high proportion of drinkers aged under 18 years in Taranaki suffer harm when supplied alcohol by friends or siblings.  Drunkenness and vomiting are most commonly reported. 

“There also appears to be a relationship between areas with a high number of alcohol outlets and alcohol-related harm in Taranaki – South Taranaki has both the highest overall density of alcohol outlets and also the highest rate of alcohol-related hospital discharges,” he said.

Studies also show a relationship between liquor outlet density and hours of sales, and alcohol-related harm.  For example the expected rate of offences associated with licensed premises in New Zealand closing between 3.01am and 5am is 8.9 times the expected rate of offences associated with licensed premises before midnight.


For further information please call
Cressida Gates-Thompson
Media Adviser
Ph 027 703 6177


Last updated: Friday, August 8, 2014

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