191445 Minimum legal drinking age research: Summary and current conclusions

Tuesday, October 28, 2008: 10:30 AM

Toben F. Nelson, ScD , Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
The minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) is one of the most well-studied alcohol policies in the United States. The preponderance of the research literature supports the age-21 drinking age. During the 1970's, many states lowered their MLDA to 18, 19, or 20. Decreases in the MLDA led to more traffic crash deaths among 18 to 20 year olds. This research, combined with grassroots advocacy, led to some states increasing the drinking age back to age 21. In 1984, the federal government enacted legislation that withheld state highway construction funds for states that failed to raise their drinking age to 21. Following the increases in the drinking age, a significant decline in alcohol use and traffic crashes occurred among 18 to 20 year olds. Further, recent research shows that alcohol use affects brain development into young adulthood and that early onset of alcohol use is related to an increased likelihood of drinking problems later in life. No rigorous research evidence supports proposed alternative approaches of educating and licensing individuals under age 21 to reduce heavy alcohol consumption and its associated problems.

Learning Objectives:
Learn the facts about the minimum legal drinking age research findings.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am trained as a social epidemiologist and I have conducted research on the topic for the past 12 years.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.