Changing times - NZ Youth engage in less risky pursuits

02 August 2013

Drinking, drugs and other risky behaviours are on the decline according to a nationwide report on New Zealand youth launched at Parliament today.

“The Health and Wellbeing of New Zealand Secondary School Students” report published by The University of Auckland and Auckland UniServices Ltd is the third in the Youth 2000 Survey Series which provides insights into trends of adolescent experience from 2001.

The 2012 survey was completed by 8,500 secondary school students and provides the country’s most comprehensive data on current adolescent concerns and behaviour.

Researchers from The University of Auckland suggest that the findings show broad overall improvement in the health and wellbeing of young people.

In particular, the report shows a marked reduction in tobacco, alcohol consumption, binge drinking and illegal drug use as well as lower rates of dangerous driving and small positive shifts in school life.

Primary investigator from the University, Dr Terryann Clark, says that the significant overall reduction in risk-taking behaviours among adolescents is exciting and is cause for optimism.

“The report indicates some strong positive emerging trends which represent huge gains for the future of New Zealand,” she says.

Other results indicate negative changes in young people’s lives. For example, youth from across the social spectrum are increasingly aware of parental concerns around not having enough money for food, and increasing numbers of young people are unable to secure part-time work or access healthcare when needed.

Divisions continue between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ particularly in healthcare and nutrition, and in outlook for future education and training.

In general, the rates of young New Zealanders who are emotionally distressed, bullied, using contraception inconsistently, and/or are overweight remain static.

“The report series builds a rich and compelling picture of the health and development of young New Zealanders and elucidates the key areas of importance that we as a society needs to invest in order to nurture positive, healthy and vibrant generations of New Zealanders,” says the Instigator of the Youth 2000 Survey Series and Clinical Director Mental Health Services at Counties Manukau DHB, Peter Watson. “The findings will be enormously valuable to policymakers, schools, parents and caregivers.”

The full report findings are now publically available at: . Separate reports including findings for Maori adolescents using the same survey data will be released from today.

Editorial Notes

Key statistics from the Youth 12 Overview

Family relationships

  • In 2012, 72% of students were happy with how they got on with their families.
  • Only 37% of students reported that they got enough time with their fathers most of the time
  • Only 49% of students reported that they got enough time with their mothers most of the time
  • In 2012, 50% of 13 year olds report parents sometimes worry about having enough money for .  In the higher deprivation households the majority of parents sometimes worry about for food
  • In 2012, 12% of students reported that their living rooms where used as bedrooms (22% for high deprivation neighbourhoods)


  • In 2012, 82% of students were had attended only one high school.
  • 29% of students liked school a lot.
  • 27% of students reported that adults at the school cared about them (compare 2007: 25%; 2001, 23%)
  • In 2012, 52% of students believed teachers were fair most of the time (compare 2007: 49%; 2001, 43%)
  • 87% believed that they would complete Year 13
  • 64% believed that they would go on to more education or training when they left school (71% females; 56% males); (69% of students in low deprivation neighbourhoods compared with 58% of students in high deprivation neighbourhoods).
  • 32% of students from high deprivation neighbourhoods though they would seek employment after school compared with 20% of students from low deprivation neighbourhoods.


  • 79% students received healthcare in the last 12 months
  • 19% had been unable to access healthcare when they needed (21% females; 16% males). This was more common in high deprivation neighbourhoods (22%) compared with medium (18%) and low deprivation (16%) neighbourhoods.
  • 74% of students accessed a family doctor in 2012 (84% in 2007)

Dental care

  • 94% of students had seen a dentist in the last two years.
  • 72% had a tooth filled.
  • 24% experienced tooth pain which kept them awake at night.
  • 14% had a tooth removed because of decay or gum infection.
  • 10% were unable to access dental care when needed. This was more common for high deprivation neighbourhoods.

Cigarette smoking

  • 11% of students currently smoke cigarettes
  • 31% purchase their own cigarettes and 49% are not routinely asked for identification.
  • 61% of current smokers had tried to cut down or quit.
  • In 2012, 23% of students had tried smoking cigarettes & 5% smoke weekly or more often (compare 2007: 32% tried, 8% weekly or more often; 2001: 53% tried, 16 weekly or more often)

Alcohol consumption

  • 57% of students had tried alcohol.
  • 45% had drunk alcohol over the previous four weeks.
  • In 2012, 23% had engaged in binge drinking over the previous four weeks (compare 2007: 34%; 2001, 40%).

Other substances

  • In 2012, 23% of students had tried marijuana (compare 2007: 23%; 2001, 39%)
  • 4% of students had taken pills and 3% ecstasy.
  • Less than 1% reported taking P.

Dangerous driving

  • In 2012, 18% of students were driven by a driver who was driving dangerously, (compare 2007: 24%; 2001: 39%)
  • In 2012, 18% of students were driven by a driver who had consumed alcohol, (compare  2007: 23%; 2001: 28%)


  • In 2012, 29% of students report being deliberately hit or harmed in the last 12 months (compare 2007:41%; 2001: 45%).

Nutrition, exercise and activity

  • 54%  of students always ate breakfast
  • 30% of students had eaten a diet that met the two or more fruits and three or more vegetables a day over the last week
  • 62% of students engaged in at least 20 minutes of physical activity three times in the previous week (57% female, 69% male)
  • 32% of students spent three or more hours a day with friends, 28% watching television, 29% texting and 20% playing computer games.
  • 37% of students are overweight or obese (students from high deprivation neighbourhoods 50%, low deprivation neighbourhoods, 29%)

Sexual Health

  • 18% of male students and 19% of female students reported being sexually active
  • 58% of students used contraception all of the time
  • 46% used condoms all of the time to protect against sexually transmitted infections.


  • In 2012, 26% of students had had a paid part-time job in the last 12 months (compare 2007: 39%; 2001:42%)