There are four areas that we monitor in the Social Hazards section: alcohol use, illicit drugs convictions and use, gambling and problem debt. Most of the actions associated with these areas are legal, but heavily regulated. Some are illegal. But all these activities (drinking alcohol, taking illicit drugs and gambling) have an addictive element that can create serious harm for the person engaging with it, as well as for their whānau and other people around them. Problem debt can also create serious harm for the person directly affected and their wider whānau. These four areas are hazards for which The Salvation Army provides various social and Christian spiritual support services across the country.
The social hazards narrative for this report is always mixed, with some indicators showing encouraging results in the last year, whereas other areas have become increasingly worrying. In terms of what could be deemed some encouraging results from last year, alcohol consumption has remained constant from 2021, hazardous drinking behaviours have declined for nearly all groups we monitor, convictions for cannabis and methamphetamine have declined, and fewer people are withdrawing their KiwiSaver savings for hardship reasons.
KiwiSaver withdrawals by reason—2012–2022
Gambling expenditure—2010/11–2020/21 ($million)
Balanced against these are some other more worrying trends: more ready-to-drink (RTD) spirit-based drinks (which are marketed to young people) are being drunk, hazardous drinking remains a challenge for Māori with one-third of adults classed as a hazardous drinker, the detection of methamphetamine in wastewater has increased again in the last year, and all forms of gambling we monitor have surged in the last year, with increasing losses on pokie machines. The existing pokies remain stubbornly profitable for venues and are centralised in communities with extremely prominent levels of social deprivation.
Illicit drug convictions (year ending June)—2012–2022
The wider cost of living and inflation pressures heavily influence these results. The Salvation Army remains convinced that political courage and urgent changes are needed in many of these areas, particularly around alcohol law reform, greater support around methamphetamine abuse and stronger regulation around gambling-related harm given the quickly rising gambling figures. The social hazards ‘story’ for 2022 is overwhelmingly negative, indicating to us that the post-Covid-19 tail, coupled with major financial restrictions for many families, is leading to more struggles with alcohol, illegal drugs, gambling and problem debt. Changes are desperately needed at the policy level, but also within our local families and communities to build resilience against these addictive behaviours.
Data: Interactive Dashboard