The legal drinking age varies greatly around the world, with it being set at the age of 16 in some countries, to the age of 21 in others. Underage drinking is a considerable problem in some countries and it is an issue governments look to tackle by research into how to curb it.
In many countries there is a huge problem with underage drinking. A WHO survey in 2008 found that, compared to the 1990s, there was an increase in drinking amongst 13-15 year olds in 71% of the countries participating in the survey. In the US underage drinking is very prevalent amongst teenagers, as by age 15, 35% of teenagers have had at least one drink, and this figure increases to 65% by 18. Even more worryingly perhaps, is that people from ages 12-20 amount for 11% of all alcohol consumed in the US, and 90% of this alcohol is consumed by binge drinking.
Underage drinking is also a problem in many European countries. In Denmark, 60% of students aged 15-16 claimed to have participated in binge drinking in the past 30 days, and the same figure is 54% and 43% in the UK and France respectively. In terms of gender, there is a correlation in most countries that boy and girls tend to drink at the same rate, however boys binge drink at a slightly higher rate than girls. Many studies have also shown that young people drink more than they smoke, in the US 41.2% of 12th graders have had a drink in the past 30 days, compared to 19.2% having had a cigarette in the same timeframe.
There are numerous effects associated with underage drinking which affects both individuals and society as a whole; often these effects can be fatal. In the US, based on data from 2006-2010, it was determined that alcohol was a factor in 4358 deaths of young people under 21. In 2012, research determined that adults who had their first drink before the age of 15 were seven times more likely to develop alcohol dependence later in life compared to those who waited until 21 for their first drink.
There is also research to suggest that underage drinking can alter the structure and functions of the developing brain, which continues to manifest well into adulthood and has far reaching consequences for individuals. Underage drinking is also linked with poor academic performance in schools and education.
Underage drinking is a big problem in some parts of the world, and its effects are detrimental, not just to the individuals, but also to society as a whole. As such governments go to great lengths to prevent the problem.
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