Drinking and Culture: International Comparisons (citations)

Because the United States is among an extremely small minority of countries with a drinking age of 21 (Mongolia, Indonesia and Palau are the others), drinking by 18-20 year-old adults is not as intensely scrutinized in other parts of the world as it is in America. Drinking by younger adolescents, especially when excessive or risky in nature, however, is a concern widely shared by parents, public health officials, and governments throughout the world.

Recent research published by the World Health Organization found that in many European countries where the drinking age is 18 or younger (and often not enforced), 15 and 16 year-old teens have more drinking occasions per month, but fewer occasions of dangerous intoxication than their American counterparts. In many southern European countries roughly one in ten of all drinking occasions results in intoxication, while in the United States almost half of all drinking occasions result in intoxication. In these countries the introduction of alcohol typically comes from parents. In the United States, where the drinking age is 21, parents are not legally afforded that opportunity, and as a result initiation to alcohol consumption is not responsibly controlled.1


1 Babor, T., Caetano, R., Casswell, S., Edwards, G., Giesbrecht, N., Graham, K., Grube, J., Gruenewald, P., Hill, L., Holder, H., Homel, R., Osterberg, E., Rehm, J., Room, R. & Rossow, I. (2003). Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.