Effects of the minimum legal drinking age on alcohol-related health service use in hospital settings in Ontario: A regression-discontinuity approach

Russell C. Callaghan, Marcos Sanches, Jodi M. Gatley, James K. Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


Objectives. We assessed the impact of the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) on hospital-based treatment for alcohol-related conditions or events in Ontario, Canada. Methods. We conducted regression-discontinuity analyses to examine MLDA effects with respect to diagnosed alcohol-related conditions. Data were derived from administrative records detailing inpatient and emergency department events in Ontario from April 2002 to March 2007. Results. Relative to youths slightly younger than the MLDA, youths just older than the MLDA exhibited increases in inpatient and emergency department events associated with alcohol-use disorders (10.8%; P = .048), assaults (7.9%; P < .001), and suicides related to alcohol (51.8%; P = .01). Among young men who had recently crossed the MLDA threshold, there was a 2.0% increase (P = .01) in hospitalizations for injuries. Conclusions. Young adults gaining legal access to alcohol incur increases in hospital-based care for a range of serious alcohol-related conditions. Our regression-discontinuity approach can be used in future studies to assess the effects of the MLDA across different settings, and our estimates can be used to inform cost-benefit analyses across MLDA scenarios.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2284-2291
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2013


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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