You are here


Alcohol drinking recommendations

The Health Promotion Agency (HPA) recommends that to reduce the long- term health risks of drinking alcohol that men should consume no more than 15 standard drinks of alcohol per week and for women no more than 10 standard drinks*.  This means a daily limit of 3 standard drinks for men, and 2 standard drinks for women*. Two or more ‘alcohol-free’ days a week are also part of the recommendations.

On occasions when the daily limit might be exceeded, HPA recommends to reduce your risk of injury that no more than 5 standard drinks for men and no more than 4 standard drinks for women* are consumed. 

* All these recommendations are intended for those 18 years old and over

What is a ‘standard drink’?
A standard drink contains 10g of alcohol. A common serve or pour of an alcoholic beverage is often more than standard drink. Find out more about standard drinks. 

People who should avoid alcohol

Pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant should avoid alcohol as there is no known safe level of alcohol use at any stage of pregnancy.  As alcohol can pass through breast milk, women who are breastfeeding should also avoid alcohol.

People taking certain medications – alcohol can interfere with the action of many common medications, including antibiotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, beta blockers, pain relievers and sleeping tablets.  Read the label on all medications and if in doubt check with your pharmacist or doctor before consuming alcohol.

Nutrition & alcohol

We often forget alcoholic drinks also contain kilojoules (calories), which is important for those trying to control their weight. Alcoholic drinks contain 29kJ (7 cal) per gram, which is almost as much as fat at 37kJ (9 cal) per gram. Our bodies can’t store alcohol, so the liver breaks most of it down for the body to use for energy. Energy from alcohol is used first, which means any extra energy from food or drink that our bodies don’t use is stored as fat. Reduce the number of kilojoules from alcoholic drinks by having less each week and replacing with water or diet drinks. Fizzy drinks and fruit juices have about the same number of kilojoules as alcohol.

Alcohol also stimulates the appetite, so you maybe tempted to eat more when having a wine with a meal, rather than a non alcoholic drink.

Alcohol is a cause of more 60 different health conditions and, for almost all conditions, heavier alcohol use means higher risk of disease or injury. Long term heavy alcohol consumption is linked to a variety of health conditions including damage to the liver and brain, heart disease and some cancers.

Tips for low-risk drinking

  • Know what a standard drink is.
  • Set limits for yourself and stick to them.
  • Eat food before or when drinking.
  • Switch between non-alcoholic drinks and alcoholic drinks
  • Include some alcohol-free days each week. 

Visit for more information and resources about alcohol in New Zealand.

Last modified: