New research has found that New Zealanders increase their pre-drinking after the age of 30, instead of slowing down.

A University of Queensland study explored the pre-drinking habits of people in 27 countries and found in six countries, including New Zealand, pre-drinking appears to increase after the age of 30.

Pre-drinking, also known as pre-loading, pre-partying or pre-gaming, is most commonly defined as the consumption of alcohol in domestic settings prior to attending licensed premises.

Often motivated by the higher cost of alcohol in licensed venues, many people also choose to pre-drink to achieve rapid intoxication, or to facilitate socialising with friends.


While the study found that pre-drinking usually declines in most countries after the age of 21, the trend continued, or increased in people aged over 30 in Brazil, Canada, England, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States.

"We expected to see pre-drinking peak at the age of 21 and then decline, but this wasn't true of every country," Research expert Dr Cheneal Puljevic said.

"Pre-drinking appears to increase again after the age of 30 in Brazil, Canada, England, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United States; this was the typical pattern for both men and women."

Puljevic said the pre-drinking behaviour could be due to people meeting up for one to two drinks at home before they go out for dinner or to a bar.

"What we found interesting, is that pre-drinking varied between countries and more so, by both age and sex," she said.

Greece recorded the lowest uptake, with 17.8 per cent, compared to Ireland's highest uptake, of 85.6 per cent, while Australia remained towards the top end of the scale at 61.4 per cent.

"In Mediterranean countries like Greece and Italy, many people have a different relationship with alcohol because they're drinking with dinner most nights," Puljevic said.

"In countries like Ireland and Australia, many people are less likely to drink during the week, but then may pre-drink before a big night out on the weekend."


With the exception of Canada and Denmark, higher percentages of males engaged in pre-drinking compared to females, at all ages.

"In these countries, women were more likely to pre-drink than their counterparts. In Denmark this was especially true for respondents between 16-24 years of age," Puljevic said.

"We don't know why exactly. Some research suggests women are pre-drinking to match the intoxication levels of males.

"Women also often prefer socialising in groups and getting together before going out, which could contribute to the behaviour."

The practice has become an issue of increasing global concern due to evidence linking pre-drinking with higher levels of alcohol use and intoxication and increased risk of adverse alcohol-related consequences such as blackouts, assault, injury or arrest.

"Interventions aimed at reducing pre-drinking need to be targeted at a range of ages and both sexes, not just young males who go out to nightclubs," Puljevic said.

"It raises some questions about public health policies that aim to increase the price of alcohol in nightclubs and bars.

"These policies have some unintended consequences. Instead of consuming alcohol over the course of a night and intoxication levels rising at a steady rate, many pre-drinkers are arriving at venues already intoxicated and drinking more."