Age of alcohol purchase related to suicide & homicide rates

Press Release – Alcohol Action NZ

New research in the US being released online tomorrow shows that people who begin drinking earlier in their lives are more likely to kill themselves or someone else later in their lives – not particularly surprising. But what was startling was the …Lower age of alcohol purchase associated with higher suicide and homicide rates longer term

New research in the US being released online tomorrow shows that people who begin drinking earlier in their lives are more likely to kill themselves or someone else later in their lives – not particularly surprising. But what was startling was the finding that raising the purchase age of alcohol was associated with a decrease in suicide and homicide rates years later.

Richard Grucza and his colleagues examined records containing more than 200,000 suicides and 130,000 homicides for people who turned 18 between the years 1967 and 1989, the years during which legal drinking ages were changing in different US states from 18 up to 21 years. Those who lived in states with lower drinking ages remained at elevated risk for suicide and homicide as adults compared with those who lived in states where the purchase age was raised to 21 years. The association was particularly strong for women.

“While there are inherent limitations to research like this, other influences on changing rates of suicide and homicide have been carefully considered in the report”, said Professor Jennie Connor, medical spokesperson for Alcohol Action NZ, “and the results clearly suggest that there are more long-term consequences of encouraging young people to drink than we previously thought”.

“Raising the purchase age is one of the measures known to be effective in reducing harm to the well-being of young people, and this research reminds us that the damage continues into later life for a substantial number.”

“We need to raise the purchase age in New Zealand even though dismantling the heavy drinking culture will require other major changes as well”.

“It is for this reason that Alcohol Action has commended Hamilton West National MP Tim Macindoe on his supplementary order paper to raise the purchase age up to 20 in New Zealand, for both on- and off-licence premises”, added Professor Doug Sellman. “This is likely to be debated early in the next term of Parliament, when the 3rd Reading of the Alcohol Reform Bill occurs”.

“However, while we continue to have ultra-cheap alcohol, available virtually 24/7, pushed along by the best marketing science available to the alcohol industry, and while driving when intoxicated remains legal for adults, we will all continue to suffer the consequences of alcohol, directly or indirectly in New Zealand”.

“Given that the age of purchase of alcohol is likely to be raised quite soon, but more substantial alcohol reforms may take a little longer, it would be prudent to put into place now research that can measure the impact of raising the purchase age alone” commented Dr Geoff Robinson.

“We would predict that the overall heavy drinking culture is unlikely to be significantly impacted on by raising the purchase age alone, but there will be some important health gains for young people”.

Alcohol Action NZ
www.alcoholaction.co.nz

ENDS

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