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Lowering Alcohol Buying Age Increased Assaults in Young Men

Update Date: Jun 20, 2014 03:17 PM EDT

According to a new study, a nation's legal age to purchase alcohol can affect the incidence rate of assaults. Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand found that when the alcohol buying age was lowered to 18 in December 1999, the number of assaults that occurred in young males between the ages of 15 and 19 spiked.

"Our previous research and three other studies showed deleterious effects of the 1999 law change on traffic injury and this was consistent with studies of similar law changes in Australia, the USA, and Canada. There had been no such studies of the effects on assault which is an increasingly important problem in New Zealand and other countries that have liberalized access to alcohol among young people," lead author Professor Kypros Kypri stated according to Medical Xpress.

For this study, the researchers examined medical data taken from hospitals throughout New Zealand. They focused on the number of patients who were admitted due to assault injuries during weekends specifically. The data included assaults recorded four years prior to the change in the legal alcohol buying age and up to 12 years after the law was put into effect. The team compared the assault rates in three age groups, which were 15-17, 18-19 and 20-21.

The researchers found that the assaults rates increased for the age group of 15 to 19. More specifically, when the researchers compared assault rates between the age groups of 15-17 and 20-21, they found that after the new buying age, the number of assaults increased by 25 percent in the younger age group. When they compared the rates in 18 to 19-year-olds to the rates in 20 to 21-year-olds, the team found that the younger group's rate increased by 20 percent.

"Increasing the minimum alcohol purchasing age should be considered as a countermeasure for the rising incidence of assault in many middle and high income countries, including New Zealand," Professor Kypri concluded.

The study, "Effects of lowering the minimum alcohol purchasing age on weekend assaults resulting in hospitalization in New Zealand," was published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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