Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Lower Legal Drinking Age Increases Unplanned Pregnancies And Pre-term Births Among Young People

Date:
May 24, 2009
Source:
University of Georgia
Summary:
Amid renewed calls to consider reducing the legal drinking age, a new study finds that lower drinking ages increase unplanned pregnancies and pre-term births among young people.

Amid renewed calls to consider reducing the legal drinking age, a new University of Georgia study finds that lower drinking ages increase unplanned pregnancies and pre-term births among young people.

Related Articles


“Our findings suggest that a lower drinking age increases risky sexual behavior among young people, and that leads to more unplanned pregnancies that result in premature birth and low birth weight,” said study author Angela Fertig, assistant professor in the 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, who is also a public service assistant in the university’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, co-authored the study with Tara Watson, assistant professor of economics at Williams College in Massachusetts. Their results appear in the May issue of the Journal of Health Economics.

The team examined birth records and survey data on alcohol use for the years 1978 to 1988, a 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- to 20-year-old women by 21 percent;
  • Increases the number of births to 18- to 20-year-olds by 4.6 percent in white women and 3.9 percent in 18- to 20-year-old African-American women;
  • Increases the likelihood of women under age 21 having a low-birth weight baby by 6 percent (4 percent for white women and 8 percent for African-American women); and
  • Increases the likelihood of premature birth by 5 percent in white women under age 18 and by 7 percent in African-American women under age 18.

Fertig noted that in many cases the impact of a reduced drinking age disproportionately falls on African-Americans. The researchers found that a drinking age of 18 increases the probability of an unplanned pregnancy by 25 percent for African-American women, for example.

The team’s analysis revealed that the negative birth outcomes associated with a lower drinking age aren’t the direct result of prenatal alcohol consumption on fetal health. Instead, a lower minimum drinking age results in more unplanned pregnancies, which are known to be associated with poorer infant health outcomes.

“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 behaviors on the mom’s part, the child ends up with worse outcomes.”

Last year, a group known as the Amethyst Initiative comprised of more than 100 college and university presidents and chancellors signed a statement encouraging discussion about lowering the legal drinking age. Fertig said her study broadens the debate by adding a new dimension that until now has not been considered.

“There are consequences to lowering the drinking age beside traffic fatalities,” Fertig said. “There’s this potentially big effect on birth outcomes, and to me that argues that we should leave the minimum drinking age where it is.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Georgia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Fertig et al. Minimum drinking age laws and infant health outcomes. Journal of Health Economics, 2009; 28 (3): 737 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2009.02.006

Cite This Page:

University of Georgia. "Lower Legal Drinking Age Increases Unplanned Pregnancies And Pre-term Births Among Young People." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090521131311.htm>.
University of Georgia. (2009, May 24). Lower Legal Drinking Age Increases Unplanned Pregnancies And Pre-term Births Among Young People. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090521131311.htm
University of Georgia. "Lower Legal Drinking Age Increases Unplanned Pregnancies And Pre-term Births Among Young People." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090521131311.htm (accessed November 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

UN Says It Will Scale Up Its Ebola Response

UN Says It Will Scale Up Its Ebola Response

AFP (Nov. 20, 2014) UN Resident Coordinator David McLachlan-Karr and WHO representative in the country Daniel Kertesz updated the media on the UN Ebola response on Wednesday. Duration: 00:51 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Takata Offers "sincerest Condolences" To Victims of Malfunctioning Airbag

Takata Offers "sincerest Condolences" To Victims of Malfunctioning Airbag

Reuters - US Online Video (Nov. 20, 2014) U.S. Congress hears from a victim and company officials as it holds a hearing on the safety of Takata airbags after reports of injuries. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obesity Costs Almost As Much As War And Terrorism

Obesity Costs Almost As Much As War And Terrorism

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) The newest estimate of the cost of obesity is pretty jarring — $2 trillion. But how did researchers get to that number? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Crisis Affecting US Adoptions

Ebola Crisis Affecting US Adoptions

AP (Nov. 20, 2014) The Sanborn family had hoped they'd be able to bring home their 5-year-old adopted son from Liberia by now. But Ebola has forced them to wait. The boy is just one of thousands of orphans in West Africa who've been impacted by the deadly virus. (Nov. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins