COMMENT:

Though I'm a non-drinker, it's easy to assume everybody else is hitting it hard.

It certainly feels that way when you're out and you're the only one ordering a virgin Mojito. It also can feel that way when you have a house full of hungover teenagers.

So imagine my surprise when the latest survey on Kiwis' drinking habits showed New Zealanders are drinking less often and at less volume.

Advertisement

The Seedlip survey results also suggested people are under less pressure to drink - which is weird, because I find there's still a big stigma attached to not drinking.

It's almost like an affront to people. It usually triggers a million questions as to why, for how long, what's the point, and so on.

It also makes you feel like a closeted alcoholic, as people gingerly ask if there was 'a problem' with alcohol which caused you to stop. It's always a letdown for people when the reason you don't drink is because you just don't.

Boring! Maybe it's just my age group who struggle with the non-drinking concept, because the results of this latest survey showed the choice to stay sober is these days more likely to be considered a valid option compared to 10 years ago.

This survey comes out just in time for Dry July of course: a month that we're encouraged to stop drinking for four weeks to raise money for charity.

Does it work? Not really, according to the experts. They liken it to a diet: good while you're on it, but really unless it's a long term lifestyle choice, you're not going to notice much difference.

Some say a month isn't long enough to reap the benefits, or it can have the reverse effect of making you feel like you're punishing yourself so that at the end of July you go nuts and drink to excess just to make up for it.

One nutritionist suggested a better approach would be adding alcohol-free days to your week on a regular basis rather than trying to take one whole month a year off.

Advertisement

The health impacts from one month off the booze may be minimal but the financial benefits are usually large. The first thing I noticed was our restaurant bills got cheaper.

The reasons we drink are still the same: it's a social lubricant, it's celebratory, but also it's a stress release - 64 per cent of survey participants said they drink to relax, and that number's higher than it was 10 years ago. A decade ago 51 per cent of us drank to relax. So modern day stress is certainly a large factor.

I don't judge anyone for drinking or not drinking, it doesn't bother me in the slightest because it's your personal choice - but likewise, it'd be good if that approach went both ways.

Maybe the challenge this month should be when the person you're out with orders a Coke instead of a beer, try not to roll your eyes.