Here is a brief overview of how not only the legal age of alcohol consumption differs, but also the culture and upbringing of children depending on their alcohol use.
In 2016, according to the latest World Health Organization data, age limits for field service and alcohol purchases outside the premises did not exist in 11 and 24 countries, respectively.
On the other hand, “in some countries alcohol is completely prohibited, so it is illegal to sell it to anyone,” said Doug Recwe, a researcher at the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO in Geneva, Switzerland.
“Of course, most of the age restrictions are around 18 and 20 years old, but there are a significant number of countries that have 21,” Rekve said.
“Thus, you have everything: from a total ban, when no one can buy or sell, to an age limit of 13 to 25 years, and then in some countries there are no age restrictions at all. Legally sell to anyone, "he said.
However, in recent years, more and more attention is paid to how much young people drink alcohol, not necessarily the age at which the use of alcohol begins.
Studies show that the greater the economic well-being of the country, the more alcohol is consumed and the higher the prevalence of strong episodic drunkenness.
Where teenage alcoholism is the highest and lowest
Drunkenness or heavy episodic drinking can be measured as consuming at least 60 grams or cleaner alcohol at least once in the last 30 days. According to WHO, around the world, about 16% of drinkers aged 15 years and older consume alcoholic beverages in large quantities.
“Ten grams of alcohol is a standard drink, which is almost a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a standard drink,” Rekve said. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a standard drink, equal to 14 grams of pure alcohol.
In 2016, Luxembourg was the country with the highest percentage of teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 who reported strong episodic drinking in the last 30 days, with 54%, according to WHO. This is followed by Equatorial Guinea with 53.7%, and then Lithuania with 53.2%.
In no other country were more than half of the adolescents in this age group reporting a strong episodic use of alcohol in the past 30 days.
Countries that have not received large amounts of alcohol in the past 30 days at the age of 15–19 include Mauritania, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.
“Europe is usually very high, both for adults and for children aged 15 to 19,” Rekve said. According to WHO, more than one-fifth of the European population aged 15 years and older report strong episodic alcohol use at least once a week.
However, he added that in many European countries there has recently been a decrease in alcohol consumption, which reflects the number of adolescents who completely abandoned alcohol.
One study, published in BMC Public Health in October, found that 29% of children between the ages of 16 and 24 in England did not drink alcohol in 2015, compared with 18% in 2005.
A WHO report published in September found that in 15 European countries and regions more than 1 out of 5 15-year-old girls reported weekly drinking in 2002, with the highest prevalence in England, Scotland, Malta and Denmark. But by 2014, only in Malta, the prevalence exceeded 20%.
Among 15-year-old boys, more than 1 out of 5 reported weekly drinking in 24 European countries and regions, with Malta, Denmark, England and Wales having the highest prevalence. But by 2014, only nine countries and regions had a prevalence in excess of 20%, with the highest prevalence in Croatia, Malta and Italy, according to the report.
In the United States, the level of alcohol intoxication among adolescents is also decreasing.
In 2018, alcohol consumption last month was recorded in 8.2%, 18.6%, and 30.2% of students in grades 8, 10, and 12, respectively, according to the Future Monitoring report published by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research in December .
These percentages were lower than in 2013, when, according to the report, 10.2%, 25.7% and 39.2% of students in grades 8, 10 and 12, respectively, reported this.
Overall, the percentage of teenagers in America who reported having ever consumed alcohol fell by 58% from its peak in 1994.
“Even parents are tolerant of alcohol, and in many cases they may even provide alcohol for the parties they hold in their home, with the feeling that it hurts teenagers to drink when they are at home?” Said Dr. Nora Volkov, director National Institute on Drug Abuse, which funded the report.
“Thus, we have a culture of drinking alcohol, which is very acceptable, but it is gradually changing. I think that the change in relationships partly explains why we are seeing a decline, ”she said.
How drinking can affect the health of young people
Studies have varied, but some researchers say that no amount of alcohol is good for your health, and drinking can damage the body and brain, especially in a young person. Available evidence suggests that the strong effects of alcohol may be associated with brain and cognitive impairment, including memory problems.
In adolescence, neurons in the brain grow and strengthen, as well as connections that enable the brain to transmit information faster and enable the brain to process more complex thoughts. Studies show that at this time, development occurs in areas of the brain associated with motivation, impulsivity and dependence.
In general, according to Requive, excessive drinking is a major risk factor for early death or disability between the ages of 15 and 49.
In other words, of all factors that may increase the risk of death or disability, such as tobacco use or lack of physical activity, excessive drinking was the leading risk factor worldwide in this age group in 2016, according to a study published in The Lancet in August .
The study, based on data analysis for 195 countries and territories, showed that alcohol consumption was associated with 3.8% of deaths among girls and women in this age group and 12.2% deaths among boys and men in the same age group.
“At the same time, we know that almost 60% of the world's population is not currently drinking at the age of 15 years and older. This means that in the future there may be a lot of changes that we need to be aware of, ”he said. He said, referring to the fact that in 2016, 57% of men and women around the world reported that they abstained from alcohol during the last 12 months.
In September, WHO launched the SAFER initiative to help governments around the world reduce the harmful effects of excessive alcohol consumption.
The initiative includes five strategies: adopting and enforcing alcohol-related policies, promoting and enforcing measures to reduce drunk driving, facilitating access to interventions or treating alcohol problems, increasing restrictions on alcohol advertising, and considering alcohol taxation and pricing policies.
As WHO says, in many parts of the world, drinking alcohol is a big part of social gatherings and holidays, but moderation remains key.