What are the effects of alcohol access on risky behaviors in young adults?
Results from a recent analysis reveal that the availability of alcohol associated with turning 21 years old may have relatively large effects on risky behaviors, especially in men. The findings are published in Contemporary Economic Policy.
The analysis of national survey data from the Add Health (a school-based study of the health-related behaviors of adolescents and their outcomes in young adulthood) found evidence that Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) laws produce sharp differences in alcohol consumption and a variety of risky behaviors related to alcohol use for youths on either side of the age 21 cutoff. The MLDA reduces binge drinking by approximately 5 percentage points as well as a variety of other consumption measures. For males, there are marked increases in reports of drunk driving, risky sexual activities, violence, and interpersonal problems with friends.
More research is needed to determine whether these results indicate a need to change the MLDA to age 18 or 25 or some other age.