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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Lowering Legal Drinking Age - More High School Dropouts

There was a time in the United States when you could legally drink alcohol at the age of 18. In 1984, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed which made it illegal for persons under the age of 21 to purchase alcohol and states that failed to comply would see reductions in annual federal highway funding. Now 31 years later, people are still debating the appropriate legal age.

Since 1984, there has been a lot of research conducted that focused on the effects of alcohol on the developing brain of adolescents. Studies have, time and time again, shown that alcohol can cause serious harm leading to problems that can last through adulthood - including behavioral health issues. Alcohol can impact teenagers socially as well, affecting school, friendships and on the home front. New research suggests that lowering the legal drinking age back to 18 could increase the high school dropout rate, TIME reports.

Dropout rates prior to 1984 were examined by researchers. The findings indicated that 17-year-olds were adversely affected by their older peers.

“We saw a 3 percent increase in dropout rates in the whole sample,” said lead author Andrew Plunk, assistant professor of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School. “In already at-risk groups [of dropping out of high school] like blacks and Hispanics, we saw a 4 percent increase.” 

If you consider that 3.3 million students are expected to graduate this year, lowering the minimum to 18 would result 99,000 additional dropouts, according to the article.

"I think this study gives us some idea of what could happen if we lower the legal drinking age," Plunk said,” said Plunk in news release. "It suggests to me that we'd see this same dropout phenomenon again." 

The findings were published Monday in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

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