Why and how the legal minimum drinking age works in Austria
In Upper Austria, minors can easily get hold of alcohol. However, alcohol abuse among young people also depends on the legal minimum drinking age!
If you want to explore alcohol consumption, take a look at Austria. Not only does the Republic stand out as a country of heavy drinkers, but the data available in this country is also good, according to researchers.
The study examines the relationship between the legal drinking age of 16 and alcohol abuse. The result is: the earlier young people are allowed to drink, the more likely they are to face a life with alcohol problems. Young people from socially weaker backgrounds are particularly affected.
But first things first. The researchers looked at surveys that asked participants whether they had drunk alcohol in the past seven days. The result was: the number of affirmations rises rapidly with the 16th birthday.
The researchers attribute the effect to the entry into the legal drinking age. The amount consumed per capita also rises sharply with the 16th birthday.
Socially weaker adolescents
The data show that adolescents from socially weaker backgrounds are statistically more responsive to the freedom they have gained to drink legally.
They are statistically more likely to experience alcohol poisoning than youths from more economically stable backgrounds. Although, the two groups converge again over time, a statistical difference can still be observed even among those in their early 20s.
Remarkably, the researchers found, that adolescents do not consume less even when family members have a proven history of alcoholism.
Indeed, the data show that teens whose parents have alcohol-related cirrhosis do not differ from their peers when they enter the legal drinking age.
Legal drinking ages may not be an effective measure to protect this group, the researchers conclude. This is because the data could be interpreted as an imitation of the parents’ drinking behavior by their children.
Availability and risk
In their study, the researchers also explored the question of why alcohol consumption suddenly rises so sharply at the age of 16. It is probably not because the legal minimum age of 16 for alcohol consumption is strictly enforced. After all, they say, an experiment has shown that almost a quarter of all stores in Upper Austria, for example, sell alcohol to minors! Almost 85 percent of those under 16 said it was easy to get hold of alcohol.
The reason is more of a normative one. With the 16th birthday, the attitude towards alcohol changes. Intoxication becomes socially accepted, parents no longer look so closely at whether and how much their own offspring drink.
The researchers add that this hypothesis is difficult to test empirically. But there is certainly data to support it. Surveys also show that Austria’s young people rate the risks of alcohol consumption higher before their 16th birthday than after?
For the study, the researchers drew on “high-quality” surveys and extensive public health registers.
Source and photo: OE24