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What are the Legal Drinking Ages Around the World?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Many young people around the world look forward to the day when they reach legal drinking age. Because of issues associated with drinking alcohol and the resulting intoxication, many nations have instituted a minimum age that an individual must reach before he or she is allowed to consume or purchase alcohol. Depending on cultural norms, this age varies widely, from around 16 to 25 in many places.

The highest drinking age is 25 in some regions of some countries, including parts of India. The legal drinking age in the United States, Kazakhstan, and Micronesia is 21. Several other nations, including Japan and Iceland, follow closely behind, with an age of 20. In these countries, it is believed that setting a higher drinking age encourages people to be more responsible, and also cuts down on the frequency of accidents involving youth and alcohol. In most countries, the age at which alcohol can be consumed is 18.

When it comes to purchasing alcohol, the lowest age is 16, and this is the minimum age in many European countries including Belgium, Spain, and Austria. Some nations such as Germany have a legal drinking age of 16 for beer and wine, but a higher minimum age of 18 for hard liquor or spirits. Other countries allow minors to drink at home under adult supervision, but not out in public; Great Britain, for example, allows children as young as five to drink at home, although they cannot purchase alcohol until they are 18.

Other countries have no minimum age at all. Nations with no legal drinking age limit include Armenia, Cambodia, and Morocco. Some of these nations do impose a limit of 16 or 18 on the ability to purchase alcohol legally or be served in bars. In actuality, most people under the minimum purchasing age in these countries are readily able to obtain alcohol.

It is also important to note that there are a number of countries in which alcohol consumption is banned. These are largely Muslim countries, and the laws may vary for Muslim and non-Muslim residents. Countries in which alcohol is banned include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Saudi Arabia.

Underage drinking is viewed as a problem in many places, especially in nations like the United States, which do not allow people to drink until they have reached the age of 21. While exceptions are made for religious purposes, such as the consumption of communion wine, other infractions of the minimum age can be severely punished, especially if the individual in question is operating a motor vehicle. The legal drinking age has been a topic of debate in these nations, although most medical and legal professionals would prefer to see the drinking age left at 21.

Drinking alcohol safely takes experience, and inexperienced drinkers can often find themselves in bad situations. The minimum drinking age is designed to help circumvent this, in the hopes that the additional life experienced gained with age will help to offset some of the effects of alcohol. Even people with years of experience can make mistakes with alcohol, however. For this reason, it is important for individuals to drink alcohol responsibly and make sure that friends, colleagues, and even complete strangers do likewise.

CulturalWorld.org is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a CulturalWorld.org researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By summing — On Oct 25, 2012

The legal drinking age used to be 18 right? Does anyone know why they raised it?

By vigilant — On Oct 24, 2012
Many people think that America's drinking age is too old, but this really shouldn't surprise anyone.

Remember, just 80 years ago it was illegal for anyone to drink any alcohol anywhere. We lose sight of what a revolutionary move Prohibition was, but I think it reveals something about the way our country feels about drinking.

By anon167046 — On Apr 11, 2011

I think that the drinking age should not matter as long as you have a parent present at the time and place.

My parents allowed me and my brother to drink here and there, but we were always with an adult. Many people think that it should not be up to them, but the government, but i think that the ones who birth you and take care of you should be the ones to decide if you're old enough or responsible enough to trust.

If i had kids yes, I would probably let them drink every once in a while if i were watching them or a relative who was older, like an aunt or uncle and even their grandparents. That's what I think about the drinking age also. I think that they should at least lower the age to 18 because by time then they are considered a legal adult.

By anon101720 — On Aug 04, 2010

In the Republic of Georgia - drinking age is 16 but no one even asks for ID. Everyone makes their own wine and every family gives it even to children for "taste". I was allowed to drink a little shot glass of wine at dinner since the age of six. I am not an alcoholic. Furthermore - it is considered "healthy".

By anon94792 — On Jul 10, 2010

Purchasing alcohol on the Island of Man is 25

By anon72493 — On Mar 23, 2010

Also, the information on Norway is wrong - you can legally drink and buy beer and wine etc. at 18, but you have to be 20 for hard liquor.

By anon59588 — On Jan 09, 2010

It would be nice if the article actually answered the question, but instead it gives information about a few random countries to make its points. When we went to Spain in high school there was no drinking age, but now that my daughter will be traveling abroad this article is of no help to find out if things have changed.

By jennifers — On Mar 31, 2008

And of course, in many of the nations with set minimum drinking ages, minors are able to purchase and drink alcohol very easily.

It would be interesting to see statistics regarding youth drinking and alcohol-related accidents in different countries. Many people think that having a higher drinking age will actually stop teenagers from drinking, when often all it does is encourage them to hide it.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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