Taeao Malama: Alcohol Use Among Pacific Peoples
Results From the New Zealand Health Survey & Attitudes and Behavior Towards Alcohol Survey
This report, presents a brief literature review and information on alcohol use and alcohol-related attitudes in Pacific peoples from two national surveys: (1) New Zealand Health Survey (NZHS); and (2) Attitudes and Behaviour towards Alcohol Survey (ABAS). The purpose of this report is to provide an updated overview of alcohol use in Pacific peoples and look at alcohol use patterns and attitudes in various Pacific subpopulations.
The NZHS and ABAS are both nationwide surveys of adults aged 15 years and over, with the NZHS being conducted through face-to-face interviews and the ABAS over the telephone. For this report, survey data from the 2012/13 to 2015/16 NZHS and 2013/14 to 2015/16 ABAS were combined into two separate pooled datasets. The two pooled datasets produced a total of 3,306 NZHS Pacific respondents and 1,030 ABAS Pacific respondents. The analyses explored differences between ethnic groups and various Pacific subgroups including Pacific Realm country affiliation.
- Pacific adults report low levels of alcohol consumption in the past year.
- Pacific adults have more at-risk alcohol use than non-Māori non-Pacific adults.
- Pacific youth show very similar alcohol use patterns to Pacific adults.
- Of all Pacific adults in the NZHS, the prevalence of past-year alcohol use was higher in:
- males than females,
- those born in New Zealand than those born overseas, and
- those who were employed compared to those who were unemployed.
- Among Pacific adults in the NZHS, lower levels of risky alcohol use occur in the most deprived areas.
- There are some differences in alcohol use between the Pacific ethnic groups and various Pacific subgroups:
- In the NZHS, adult past-year alcohol use was higher in Cook Islands Māori and Niueans and significantly lower in Tongans than in Samoans. However, past-year alcohol use was still relatively lower in all the Pacific ethnic groups than in non-Māori non-Pacific.
- Risky alcohol use was significantly higher in New Zealand-born than in overseas-born; and in females from the Pacific Realm countries than females from non-Realm countries.
- A similar pattern can be seen for risky alcohol use for youth but these differences were not statistically significant.
- Of all Pacific adults in the ABAS:
- non-users was significantly lower in New Zealand-born than in overseas-born.
- more New Zealand-born than overseas-born agreed that binge alcohol use was a part of Kiwi culture.
- Those who migrated to New Zealand as children aged 0 to 15 years were more likely to agree that binge alcohol use was part of Kiwi culture compared to those who migrated as adults aged 16 to 25 years and 25 years and over.
- Pacific adults consumed on average a higher number of alcohol units in the last alcohol using occasion.
- Pacific adults have greater concerns about alcohol in their communities.
- Being intoxicated is more acceptable to Pacific youth and Pacific men.
Many of the results on Pacific peoples’ use of alcohol presented in this report affirm those seen in the literature.
Both the NZHS and ABAS showed the burden of risky alcohol use was mostly experienced by Pacific men and Pacific of younger ages. The patterns of risky alcohol use warrant more targeted health promotion approaches for these groups, particularly given the ABAS results showed Pacific men and younger Pacific adults had attitudes that were more accepting of being intoxicated.
When the analysis of the NZHS was restricted to Pacific youth aged 15 to 24 years, the same ‘all or none’ pattern of low levels of alcohol use but significantly higher levels of risky alcohol use than non-Māori non-Pacific youth was visible.
While the high levels of risky alcohol use in Pacific youth and adults point to a need for health promotion initiatives for Pacific peoples overall, more research is needed to better understand the contexts of alcohol harm.
The lower levels of risky alcohol use seen in Pacific peoples living in the most deprived areas is a unique pattern and is the reverse of what is commonly seen in other populations in New Zealand.
Consistent with the literature, several results in this report support theories of general cultural shifts in Pacific peoples’ use of alcohol in New Zealand. These include:
- the higher prevalence of risky alcohol use in New Zealand-born Pacific adults;
- the higher prevalence of past-year alcohol use in Cook Islands and Niuean Pacific groups;
- the unique pattern of lower levels of risky alcohol use in the most deprived areas; and
- even the higher percentage of New Zealand-born and younger-aged migrants who agreed that “Binge alcohol use was a part of Kiwi culture”.
Further research is needed to unpack how cultural attitudes and alcohol use behaviors have changed over generations in New Zealand as this may also illuminate potential cultural protective factors for Pacific peoples.
A novel finding was that Pacific females of the Pacific Realm countries were more likely to use alcohol riskily than those from non-Realm Pacific countries. This finding supports the qualitative research on a cultural shift in the gendered use of alcohol, which was traditionally an activity reserved for Pacific males. This finding also suggests specific health promotion activities for females from Cook Islands and Niuean groups should be explored.
While the ABAS results suggested Pacific adults held poorer opinions about alcohol outlets and the behavior of intoxicated people in their communities, it is unclear how this relates to alcohol use, particularly given the unique patterning of risky alcohol use by deprivation in Pacific adults. Further research is needed to explore the relationships between socio-economic deprivation and culture and the combined impact these factors have on Pacific peoples’ use of alcohol.