Legal Drinking Age and U.S. vs. European Alcohol Consumption Patterns

The scopes of alcohol consumption have become a serious concern over the past decades for the world community and the US in particular. Unlike European countries, the US government decided to raise the minimum legal drinking age to 21, while most countries allow alcohol consumption from 18. Such a law became nationally accepted in 1984 with no exceptions for any states (“Age 21 minimum legal drinking age,” 2020). Such a modification has, by all means, brought many benefits to the US community, but it has not managed to solve the youth’s binge-drinking issue.

On the one hand, with raising the legal drinking age, the number of car accidents caused by alcohol intoxication, as well as the number of drinking youth have dropped significantly. On the other hand, the tendency of binge drinking among US college students is still a major problem for the state (Levinthal, 2014). The vast majority of students drink alcohol on a weekly basis without a particular occasion or goal, but because it is a widespread trend. Once college students move from their parent’s homes or get acquainted with a new company, they drink for both social reasons and feelings of freedom and exploring something unknown.

As alcohol has already become part and parcel of American social life, neither restrictions on the amount of alcohol nor raising the minimum legal drinking age to 23 will influence the patterns of its abuse. Once people are not allowed to drink alcohol until they are 23, they will try to find other ways to ignore the law and drink alcohol while they are college students. The solution here would be to promote an alcohol-free lifestyle and educate students on the topic of binge-drinking implications, as various limitations can only subconsciously make people more excited to try alcohol.

The US vs. European Alcohol Consumption Patterns

Although European countries and the US have distinct alcohol abuse patterns due to a gap in the minimum legal drinking age, both of them suffer a lot from youth’s binge-drinking. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the rate of heavy drinking among European adolescents aged 15 and above is considered to be one of the highest in the world (“Alcohol use: Data and statistics,” 2020). While European teenagers are able to drink alcohol from the age of 16 or 18, US adolescents are not allowed to consume the substance until they turn 21.

Although it may seem that the US has a stronger policy, the statistics expose higher risks of drug dependence and deaths from alcohol across the country. WHO claims the US to be one of the greatest contributors to the world alcohol abuse policies (“PAHO | Alcohol,” 2020). The major reason behind such dissonance may be the psychological factors concerning mentality and world perception. Since US teenagers are constantly told about the illegality of underage drinking, after turning the minimum legal age, they are eager to try it. Another important contribution to that fact is the popularity of drinking culture across the state, making this desire even bigger.

European families, on the other hand, do not seem to restrain their kids from drinking alcohol in small portions. Many countries, such as Italy, cannot imagine their culture without wine, and the children get to try alcohol from a relatively young age. Hence, the major reason behind this dissonance lies in the fact that European adolescents know how to behave with alcohol once they are allowed to drink. American teenagers, on the other hand, often drink alcohol due to the pressure of limitation.


Age 21 minimum legal drinking age. (2020). Web.

Alcohol use: Data and statistics. (2020). Web.

Levinthal, C. F. (2014). Drugs, behavior, and modern society. London, UK: Pearson Education.

PAHO | Alcohol. (2020). Web.