Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rotten Reporting Strikes Again

A new Canadian study using data from 1997-2007 finds that there is a significant jump in hospital admissions for alcohol poisoning, suicide, and unintentional injuries during the first year that young Canadians reach the legal drinking age (18 or 19 depending on the province).  The way the study has been reported in the media implied that raising the drinking age would lead to a reduction in such morbidity.   Thus, if the three provinces with a drinking age of 18 were to raise it to 19, there would supposedly be fewer alcohol-related injuries overall in Canada.

However, this faulty logic ignores the fact that the same spike in hospitalizations still occurred in provinces where the drinking age is 19, just delayed by one year.  The study does not provide any evidence of a net reduction in injuries from a higher age limit, just a delay.  Apparently, the first year that one becomes legal to drink is the riskiest year regardless of the drinking age, which Twenty-One Debunked has noted from previous American studies such as Asch and Levy (1987 and 1990), Males (1986), and Dirscherl (2011).  Thus, raising the legal drinking age is merely a shell game that is unlikely to actually solve anything. 

Rather than merely postpone the inevitable, it would be far better if all Canadian provinces (and the USA) were to lower the drinking age to 18, increase alcohol education and treatment, and crack down harder on DUI and drunk violence among all ages.  For the USA, whose alcohol taxes are well below those found in Canada and other nations, it would likely be beneficial to raise such taxes as well.

1 comment:

  1. The Canadian study probably says the same thing about the U.S. as well. Raising a drinking age postpones what the study said because raising a drinking age doesn't erase those problems. Raising a reasonable drinking age is a bad idea to begin with. It doesn't accomplish anything that is beneficial. I'm somewhat worried that Canadians are going to support the same drinking age as in the U.S. That study has been wrongly interrupted in the media. All provinces and territories should lower their drinking age to 18; the U.S. too. Semi-rigorous alcohol education will reduce those problems in Canada and the U.S. along with a drinking age was 18.