A new study says that lowering drinking age might lead to an increase in unplanned pregnancies and pre-term births among the youth.
"Our findings suggest that a lower drinking age increases risky sexual behaviour among young people, and that leads to more unplanned pregnancies that result in premature birth and low birth weight," said study author Angela Fertig, assistant professor in the UGA College of Public Health.
"The take-home message is that when it's easier for young people to get alcohol, birth outcomes are worse," she added.
During the study, the team examined birth records and survey data n alcohol use
They found that a drinking age of 18 increased prenatal alcohol consumption among 18- to 20-year-old women by 21 percent.
The number of births to 18- to 20-year-olds increased by 4.6 percent in white women and 3.9 percent in 18- to 20-year-old African-American women;
The likelihood of women under age 21 having a low-birth weight baby also increased by 6 percent and incidence of premature birth by 5 percent.
The analysis revealed that a lower minimum drinking age results in more unplanned pregnancies, which are known to be associated with poorer infant health outcomes.
"Teenagers who get pregnant unexpectedly are less likely to receive good prenatal care and may not take as much interest in the child as someone who tried to get pregnant," said Fertig.
"As a result of these behaviours on the mom's part, the child ends up with worse outcomes," she added.