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Higher Legal Drinking Age May Mean Safer Lives for Women
Date:11/16/2011

on about 200,000 suicides and 130,000 homicides that took place in the United States between 1990 and 2004.

Looking at residents of the 39 states where the drinking age was pushed upward to 21, the team found in 37 of those states that women who grew up being able to drink below the age of 21 had a 12 percent higher risk for suicide -- a trend that stretched far into adulthood -- than women who matured when the legal drinking age was set at 21.

And in 38 out of 39 states, women who had matured when the legal drinking age was below 21 had a 15 percent higher risk of dying from homicide, the study found.

These trends were not mirrored among men, however.

"As for the different findings concerning men and women, it's hard to say why that happened," Grucza said. "We can start by saying that it's well understood that suicide and homicide are very different phenomena for men and women, independent of drinking habits. And perhaps alcohol tips the dynamic. But at this point it's just speculation based on past literature. We don't have the specific data to ferret that out."

There are important gender differences when it comes to suicide and homicide, the researchers pointed out. For example, while women are known to attempt suicide more often than men, men are more apt to carry suicide to completion. So, drinking might raise the number of suicide attempts that end in completion for women, the researchers reasoned.

Female victims of homicide are most often killed by an acquaintance, often during episodes of alcohol-fueled domestic violence, Grucza's team noted. Allowing men to begin drinking at a younger age might up the odds of that happening over time, they added.

Regardless, Grucza and his associates concluded that raising the drinking age appears to have had a positive societal impact. They estimate that upward of 600 suicides and 600 homicides have been prevented each year simply by having 21 as the nation's drinking age.<
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