New research suggests that the 1984 federal act to increase the drinking age from 18 prevents hundreds of suicides and homicides
PROBLEM: A federal act established 21 as the minimum legal drinking age in 1984. Since then, several studies have seemingly validated this move by linking the previous drinking age of 18 to higher rates of suicides, homicides, DUI accidents, and alcohol- and drug-use disorders during the years when those restrictions were in effect. It's unclear, however, if these negative consequences endure.
METHODOLOGY: Researchers led by Washington University epidemiologist Richard A. Grucza analyzed data on living populations from the U.S. Census and American Community Survey as well as records from the U.S. Multiple Cause of Death files, 1990-2004. The combined files contained information on more than 200,000 suicides and 130,000 homicides for people who turned 18 between 1967 and 1989, the years that legal drinking ages were in flux.
RESULTS: There seemed to be no association between minimum drinking age and homicide or suicide. However, when gender-specific policies were singled out, the authors saw that women exposed to laws that enable drinking as early as 18 years of age are at elevated risk for both suicide and homicide. The authors estimate that the current national drinking age of 21 may be preventing around 600 suicides and 600 homicides a year.