Lower drinking age encourages promiscuity, premature births

May 25th, 2009 - 2:58 pm ICT by IANS  

London, May 25 (IANS) Lowering legal drinking age not only encourages promiscuity among young people, but also results in unwanted pregnancies and premature births, a new study has found.
“Our findings suggest that a lower drinking age increases risky sexual behaviour… that leads to more unplanned pregnancies and premature birth and low birth weight,” said study author Angela Fertig, assistant professor, University of Georgia-Atlanta (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,” Fertig added. She has co-authored the study with Tara Watson, assistant professor of economics at Williams College in Massachusetts.

The team examined birth records and survey data on alcohol use from 1978 to 1988, a 10-year period when state minimum drinking age laws were in flux.

Fertig said the consensus among researchers is that a higher minimum drinking age reduces fatal car crashes and alcohol consumption among young adults, but there is little data on how drinking age laws influence infant health.

The researchers found that a drinking age of 18 increases prenatal alcohol consumption among 18-year-old to 20-year-old women by 21 percent.

“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,” Fertig said. “As a result of these behaviours on the mom’s part, the child ends up with worse outcomes.”

Last year, a group known as the Amethyst Initiative comprising more than 100 college and university presidents and chancellors signed a statement encouraging discussion about lowering the legal drinking age, said an UGA release.

The study results appeared in the May issue of the Journal of Health Economics.

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