The following is a brief review of how not only is the age of drinking legal but culture and parenting in alcohol consumption varies in various countries.
In 2016, the age limit for on-site services and outside purchases of alcoholic beverages did not exist in 11 and 24 countries, respectively, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization.
On the other hand, "some countries have a total ban on alcohol, so it is not legal to sell to anyone," said Dag Rekve, a researcher at the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO in Geneva, Switzerland.
"So far, most of the age limits are around 18 and 20, but there are a large number of countries that have 21," Rekve said.
"So you have everything from a total ban, where no one can buy or sell, up to the age limit of 13 to 25, and then there are some countries that don't have any age restrictions. It's legal to sell to anyone," he say
But in recent years, more attention has shifted to how much alcohol is consumed by young people, not necessarily the age at which to start drinking.
Research shows that the greater the economic wealth of a country, the more alcohol is consumed and the higher the prevalence of severe episodic drinking.
Where teenagers drink the highest and lowest
Heavy episodic parties or drinks can be measured by consuming at least 60 grams or more pure alcohol on at least one occasion in the last 30 days. Worldwide, around 16% of drinkers aged 15 years and over are involved in severe episodic drinking, according to WHO.
"Ten grams of alcohol is a standard drink, which is about a bottle of beer, a glass of wine or a standard spirit drink," Rekve said. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define standard drinks equivalent to 14 grams of pure alcohol.
In 2016, countries with the highest percentage aged 15 to 19 years who reported severe episodic drinking in the last 30 days were Luxembourg, with 54%, according to WHO. Equatorial Guinea was followed by 53.7% and then Lithuania with 53.2%.
No other country has more than half of teens in this age group who report episodic drinking in the last 30 days.
Countries where there are no children aged 15 to 19 who report episodic drinkers in the past 30 days are Mauritania, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.
"Europe is usually very high, both for the adult population and for children aged 15 to 19 years," Rekve said. More than one-fifth of the European population of 15 and older have reported severe episodic drinking at least once a week, according to the WHO.
He added, however, that many European countries have recently seen a decline in alcohol use which reflects the number of teenagers who don't drink at all.
One study, published in the journal BMC Public Health in October, found that 29% of those aged 16 to 24 in the UK were non-drinkers in 2015, up from 18% in 2005.
A WHO report published in September found that, in 15 European countries and regions, more than 1 in 5 15-year-old girls reported weekly drinking in 2002, with the highest prevalence in England, Scotland, Malta and Denmark. But in 2014, only Malta had a prevalence of more than 20%.
Among 15-year-old boys, more than 1 in 5 reported weekly drinking in 24 European countries and regions, with the highest prevalence in Malta, Denmark, England and Wales. But in 2014, only nine countries and regions had a prevalence greater than 20%, with the highest prevalence in Croatia, Malta and Italy, according to the report.
In the United States, the rate of binge drinking among teenagers has also declined.
In 2018, alcohol consumption in the past month was reported at 8.2%, 18.6% and 30.2% of eighth, 10 and 12 students, according to a report called Monitoring the Future, released by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research in December.
The percentage dropped from 2013, when it was reported by eighth, 10th, and 12th grade students, respectively 10.2%, 25.7%, and 12, according to the report.
Overall, the percentage of teenagers in America who reported ever using alcohol fell by 58% from its peak in 1994.
"Even parents have a tolerance for alcohol, and in many cases they may even provide alcohol for a party they hold in their home, with the feeling that there is a disadvantage in letting teens drink when they are at home?" said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, funded the report.
"So we have a culture of drinking that is very acceptable but is slowly changing. I think a change in attitude is partly responsible for why we see a decline," he said.
How much drinking alcohol can affect the health of young people
Research has varied, but some researchers say there is no amount of alcohol that is good for your health, and binge drinking can damage the body and brain, especially in young people. Evidence shows that excessive alcohol exposure can be associated with brain damage and cognitive deficits, including memory problems.
During adolescence, neurons in the brain grow and strengthen, and connections develop to allow the brain to send information faster and allow the brain to process more complex thoughts. Research shows that, during this time, developments occur in brain regions that are related to motivation, impulsivity and addiction.
In general, excessive alcohol consumption ranks as a major risk factor for premature death or disability at the age of 15 to 49 years, Rekve said.
In other words, of all the factors that can increase the risk of death or disability – such as tobacco use or physical activity – drinking too much is a major risk factor globally among that age group in 2016, according to a study published in The Lancet on the moon August.
This study, based on analysis of data for 195 countries and regions, found that alcohol use was associated with 3.8% of deaths in girls and women in that age group and 12.2% of deaths in boys and men in the age group the same one.
"At the same time, we know that almost 60% of the world's population is currently not drinkers aged 15 years and over. That means that there may be many changes in the future that we need to be aware of," Rekve said, referring to how in 2016 , 57% of men and women worldwide reported not drinking alcohol in the past 12 months.
In September, the WHO launched an initiative called SAFER in an effort to help governments around the world reduce the harmful effects of excessive alcohol consumption.
This initiative has five strategies: enacting and enforcing alcohol-related policies, advancing and enforcing measures to reduce drunk driving, facilitating access to interventions or treatment for alcohol problems, enforcing restrictions on alcohol advertising and considering tax policies and pricing alcohol.
As the WHO says, in many parts of the world, drinking alcoholic beverages is a big part of social meetings and celebrations – but moderation remains the key.