Young Cantabrians say New Zealand has a ``toxic'' drinking culture and they are put under pressure to consume booze.
The latest Ministry of Health figures show that 85 per cent of people aged 18--24 drank alcohol in the past year. Just last week, an Otago University student party prompted controversy after one student was urinated on while unconscious as part of a drinking initiation.
Christchurch tertiary students say the drinking culture is "toxic".
Klay August, a student at Ara, said the pressures to drink depended on the social crowd.
“[Young people are] much more easily influenced. From what I’ve seen there seems to be a lot of very young drinkers just wanting to get into it early.”
Mackenzie Soper, 22, has never been drunk but says many young people in her life drink to feel like they belong. “I think when there’s the lack of self-identity that comes with being young, people are like ‘I need to, in order to fit in,’ which is really sad.”
Julia McCarthy is the Christchurch Co-ordinator of Redfrogs, an organisation that provides education about drinking for young people. Redfrogs often attends alcohol-fuelled events to ensure people are safe.
She said there was a culture of excessive drinking in New Zealand, and a high proportion of young people managed to get themselves into unsafe situations. “Often it comes from a lot of that experimental behaviour… there definitely is too much social pressure in some groups.”
According to the Ministry of Health, of those in the 18-24 age bracket who had consumed alcohol in the past year, 36 per cent had done so to "hazardous" levels.
Dee Renai, 23, is lifelong sober, and says peer pressure is a big part of why younger people drink.
“I coach 13-year-olds and they’re already under a lot of pressure to drink… The binge drinking culture is pretty toxic in New Zealand.”
Neuroscience educator Nathan Mikaere-Wallis, who has studied the effects of alcohol on the adolescent brain, said the amount of alcohol New Zealanders considered normal would be almost thought of as alcoholic level overseas.
“If you ask in Europe what the socially acceptable number of drinks to have in a night is, it’s three. When you ask that in New Zealand, the number comes back around 13.”
He said it was hard for parents to convince teens to not drink, but there were ways to compromise and negotiate safe rules between kids and parents.
Renai said the pressure to drink eased with age.
“As you get older you have more responsibility… you don’t want to be seen to be that person every weekend.”