A new study conducted by American researchers reveals that lowering the legal drinking age to below 21 years will only encourage people to binge drink later on in their lives.
Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis tracked the long-term drinking behaviour of more than 39,000 people who began consuming alcohol in the 1970s when some US states had legal drinking ages as low as 18.
"It wasn't just that lower minimum drinking ages had a negative impact on people when they were young," says study co-author Andrew D. Plunk, post-doctoral research fellow in psychiatry, the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research reports.
"Even decades later, the ability to legally purchase alcohol before age 21 was associated with more frequent binge drinking," adds Plunk, according to a Washington statement.
The effect was most pronounced among men who did not attend college. And the researchers say the findings should be a warning to those who advocate lowering the minimum drinking age.
"Binge drinking on college campuses is a very serious problem," Plunk says. "But it's also important not to completely forget about young people who aren't on college campuses. In our study, they had the greatest risk of suffering the long-term consequences linked to lower drinking ages."