One in three New Zealanders have been harmed by their own alcohol drinking, a survey shows.

The research found that people most at risk of alcohol-related harm were young Maori men or people living in low socio-economic areas.

The survey, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, found 33.8 per cent of current drinkers reported they had been adversely affected in the past year.

This included alcohol causing problems with work, studies, relationships, physical health or finances.


The most reported harm was to the respondents' health.

Around 12.7 per cent of respondents reported one or more specific alcohol-related "troubles", including problems with the law, illness, loss of a partner or friend or fighting.

Being involved in a fight while drinking was the most common alcohol-related problem. Of those respondents, 63.4 per cent were males, and a third were aged under 25.

"The odds of reporting a harm or trouble in the past year decreased substantially with age," the report said.

"Prevalence of harm and trouble resulting from drinking is high in the general population as judged by the drinkers themselves.

"These findings support the association of heavy alcohol consumption with increased risk of alcohol-related harm."

For both men and women, increased consumption of alcohol resulted in higher odds of having experienced harm or troubles in the past year, the report said.

"Respondents identified as heavy episodic drinkers were more than 4.3 times as likely to have experienced alcohol-related harm, and respondents with the highest level of daily consumption were 3.9 times as likely to report alcohol-related trouble."

Heavy alcohol use badly affected a "substantial proportion of the general population".

It also said that while more men than women experienced harm, the prevalence of harm in women drinkers was "substantial".

" ... drinking above the recommended limits is more common in women than men."

Alcohol-related harm was occurring across the social spectrum in both men and women, which meant targeted interventions and individual approaches were unlikely to bring about much change, the report said.

" ... population-based strategies are the most suitable approach.

"The most effective population-based strategies to reduce hazardous drinking and associated harm are policy interventions that reduce the availability and promotion of cheap alcohol."

This week the Government backed down on plans to restrict the sale and strength of "ready-to-drink" beverages.