Binge Drinking and Alcohol Related Hospital Stays – Does a Legal Drinking Age Matter for Minors?
This paper evaluates the effectiveness of the German Minimum Legal Drinking Age in reducing excessive drinking and alcohol-related hospital stays. We add to previous studies by looking at a considerably earlier cutoff at age 16, when teenagers in Germany gain legal access to beer, wine, and sparkling wine. Using detailed survey data, we find considerable increases in moderate alcohol consumption and self-perceived drunkenness at age 16, but rather negligible effects for excessive drinking patterns which may lead to coma or deaths. Likewise, our analysis of daily-hospital-admission data reveals no discontinuities in hospital stays due to acute alcohol intoxication. Admissions due to physical injuries, in contrast, increase by about 11% at age 16 which coincides with teenage drinking patterns and incidents when drunken teenagers fall or get into a fight.