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Would Lowering the Drinking Age Cost More Women Their Lives?

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The National Minimum Age Drinking Act of 1984 required that all states raise their minimum drinking age to 21, or risk a reduction in highway funds under the Federal-Aid Highway Act. Any state failing to comply faced a 10 percent decrease in its annual federal highway appointment, according to Drinkingage.procon.org. By 1988, all 50 states and DC were in compliance.

While the original motive for raising the drinking age was to combat drunk driving fatalities, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found unintended consequences of the legislation that have particularly benefited women over the past 30-plus years.

The study’s lead author Richard Grucza -- an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis -- whose research was published in the February issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found that women who grew up when the legal drinking age was 21 -- not 18 -- had lower incidences of suicide and homicide.

The authors examined data on about 200,000 suicides and 130,000 homicides that took place in the United States between 1990 and 2004, hoping to gauge the longer-term impact of drinking age laws on homicide and suicide.

Grucza’s team found that “women who grew up being able to drink below the age of 21 had a 12 percent higher risk for suicide -- a trend that stretched far into adulthood -- than women who matured when the legal drinking age was set at 21 ... And women who had matured when the legal drinking age was below 21 had a 15 percent higher risk of dying from homicide,” according to a release on the study.

What Grucza notes as a particularly interesting finding is that age of drinking impacted women differently than men.

"As for the different findings concerning men and women, it's hard to say why that happened," Grucza said. "We can start by saying that it's well understood that suicide and homicide are very different phenomena for men and women, independent of drinking habits. And perhaps alcohol tips the dynamic. But at this point it's just speculation based on past literature.

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EmpowHER Guest

This study is typical junk science. Correlation does not equal causation, and the article does not say what other variables (if any) were controlled for. The fact that the supposed effect (whose size was fairly small) occured only among women while men were completely unaffected is very diffcult to explain away if the effect were genuine. Such a study should be taken with a grain of salt, if not a whole pound.

It is really transparent and obvious why a study like this would come out now, at a time when many policymakers are seriously considering lowering the drinking age. After the arguments about drunk driving fatalities have been debunked time and time again (Google "Miron and Tetelbaum"), it was necessary to come up with other "public health" arguments for continuing to violate the civil rights of 18-20 year old young adults. But make no mistake--these arguments are really just a more socially acceptable way of saying that some people's rights are more important than others. That is, the antithesis of what America supposedly stands for.

Let America be America again, and lower the drinking age to 18. If you're old enough to go to war, you're old enough to go to the bar. 'Nuff said.

November 16, 2011 - 4:45pm
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