Legal drinking ages around the world

Champagne often flows when toasting to the new year — but at what age can most young people legally start sipping bubbly?

Around the world, the age when it’s legal to purchase or be served most alcohol products varies from 13 in Burkina Faso to 25 in Eritrea.

Here’s a brief look at how not only the legal drinking age but the culture and parenting around alcohol consumption varies across countries.

Legal drinking ages around the world

In 2016, age limits for on-premise service and off-premise purchases of alcohol 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’s not legal to sell to anyone,” said Dag Rekve, a researcher in the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO in Geneva, Switzerland.

“By far, the bulk of age limits are around 18 and 20, but there are a considerable number of countries that have 21,” Rekve said.

“So you have everything from a total ban, where nobody can buy or sell, to an age range of limits from 13 to 25, and then there are some countries that don’t have any age limits whatsoever. It’s legal to sell to anyone,” he said.

Yet in recent years, more attention has turned to how much alcohol young people are drinking, not necessarily the age at which drinking starts.

Research suggests that the greater economic wealth a country has, the more alcohol is consumed and the higher the prevalence of heavy episodic drinking.

Where teen drinking is highest and lowest

Binge or heavy episodic drinking can be measured as consuming at least 60 grams or more of pure alcohol on at least one occasion in the past 30 days. Worldwide, about 16% of drinkers 15 and older engage in heavy episodic drinking, according to WHO.

“Ten grams of alcohol is a standard drink, which is approximately almost a bottle of beer, a glass of wine or a standard drink of spirits,” Rekve said. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a standard drink as equal to 14 grams of pure alcohol.

In 2016, the country with the highest percentage of