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One of the arguments we sometimes hear when we explain to parents and others in the community that underage drinking is dangerous is “Europe has a lower drinking age, and they seem to be doing OK.”

But it turns out Europe has more drinking-related problems than the United States.

According to the World Health Organization, European rates of current drinking and high-risk or binge drinking among teens (15-19 years old) are significantly higher in European countries than the United States. While the United States has 20 percent of teens who reported binge drinking, Germany France, and the United Kingdom’s rates are all well over 40 percent.

One of the negative consequences that we talk about is the fact that drinking underage is linked to alcohol dependence later in life. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Youth who start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse in their lifetimes than those who begin drinking at age 21 years or later.”

This bears out in the numbers from Europe as well. Europe has more binge drinkers even into adulthood, and more cases of death from liver cirrhosis as well.

“The US’s age-adjusted rate for men 15 and older was 14.9 per 100,000 people, while the UK’s rate was 16, France’s was 16.4, Germany’s was 18.8, and Denmark’s was 20.2. This is likely a result of excessive drinking in youth and adulthood,” according to Vox News.

The decision to increase the legal drinking age to 21 in the United States was not arbitrary, but was based on research. It saves lives and prevents disease, crime, and other negative consequences.

If you are a parent, talk to your kids about why the legal drinking age is 21, and let them know that you don’t want them drinking at all until then. Check out our website, for more information about our underage drinking prevention initiatives in the area and tips for how to talk to your kids about underage drinking.

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