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Raise drinking age now, lower suicide and homicide rates later (USA)

December 1, 2011

In a study to be published in the February 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, researchers will show that a lower drinking age is associated with several adverse, long-term outcomes that include suicide and homicide. While this may not come as a surprise, the novel discovery is that youth who were legally permitted to drink between the ages of 18 to 21 years showed an ongoing, elevated risk for suicide and homicide throughout their entire lives, particularly amongst women.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine reviewed data from 200,000 suicides and 130,000 homicides in the US Multiple Cause of Death files between 1990 and 2004, in conjunction with data on living populations from the US Census and American Community Survey. Their review looked at individuals who turned 18 between the years 1967 and 1989, a time in which legal drinking ages varied from 18 to 21 years.

Data revealed that in areas where the drinking age began at 21 years, there was a significantly reduced risk of homicide and suicide among women. Researchers observe that exposure to alcohol during critical development years clearly has long-term consequences throughout the entire course of life, not just during the adolescent years.

To read the Medical News Today summary of the Early View of this article, go to www.medicalnewstoday.com.

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