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Under-21 drinking may boost murder, suicide risks for women later

November 15, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Women who were of drinking age when the drinking age was under 21 could be at higher risk for suicide and murder later in life, a study finds.
Women who were of drinking age when the drinking age was under 21 could be… (Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg )

Under-21 drinking, which was legal in the U.S. decades ago, could have some lasting consequences. A study finds that drinking-age women who lived in states that allowed people under 21 to drink could be at higher risk for suicide and homicide later in life.

Data from national cause-of-death files plus census surveys were examined for the study, released online today in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Reports contained information on more than 200,000 suicides and 130,000 homicides for people who turned 18 between 1967 and 1989. During those years, drinking ages in the U.S. were changing, from under age 21 to 21 and older.

Among men and women, researchers saw no link between minimum drinking age laws and the rates of suicide and homicide. However, when broken down by gender, women who were exposed to those laws had a 12% greater risk of suicide and a 15% greater risk of homicide.

"For homicide, females are victimized by acquaintances in 92% of the cases," study co-author Richard Grucza said in a news release. Grucza, an epidemiologist at Washington University School of Medicine, added: "If lower drinking ages result in elevated rates of alcohol problems, this could contribute to alcohol-fueled domestic violence. Alcohol use by both women and their partners could contribute to domestic-violence situations. For suicide, it may be that alcohol contributes to the severity of suicide attempts."

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