Price and alcohol content effects on purchase behaviour: an analysis of New Zealand and Australian youth drinking
The excessive consumption of alcohol by young people is a current and highly controversial issue in New Zealand. Such behaviour incurs a plethora of negative consequences on the consumers and society in general, and is costly, both fiscally and socially. This research was undertaken to investigate the influences on the alcohol consumption behaviour of young people. The results of a literature review suggested that the consumption of excessive levels of alcohol is an accepted social norm and that young people drink alcohol to reach a level of intoxication. Therefore, this research predicted that changes in the price of alcohol would not have an effect on the amount of alcohol purchased and consumed by youths. It was also predicted that young people would choose to consume beverages containing a higher level of alcohol, in order to achieve the desired inebriated state. An experiment was conducted to test these predictions. Tertiary students were surveyed using a hypothetical scenario to assess the effects of price and alcohol content on their consumption behaviour. This experiment took place in both New Zealand and Australia. The results indicated that changes in price did not significantly affect consumption behaviour, in either country, supporting the initial predictions. The results also indicated that changes in alcohol content did not affect the consumption behaviour of young people in Australia, but did affect this in New Zealand. Where the percentage of alcohol content was decreased, young people in New Zealand indicated that they would purchase more alcohol, and when the alcohol content in a beverage was increased, they would purchase less. This again supports the initial predictions. The results of this experiment suggest that social norms are stronger than the effects of price on the alcohol consumption behaviour of young people. They also support the notion that young people drink to reach a level of intoxication, and thus will drink more alcohol when the percentage of alcohol in beverages is reduced. The concluding discussion section in this document explains the significance of these findings, particularly for social marketers and government policy makers. This study suggests that the current policies in place to reduce consumption, such as taxation and movements towards a maximum allowable alcohol content in some beverages, have minimal effects.