Examining the Intended and Unintended Impacts of Raising a Minimum Legal Drinking Age on Primary and Secondary Societal Harm and Violence from a Contextual Policy Perspective: A Scoping Review

Ruud T. J. Roodbeen*, Rachel I. Dijkstra, Karen Schelleman-Offermans, Roland Friele, Dike van de Mheen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Raising a minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) has generated interest and debate in research and politics, but opposition persists. Up to now, the presentation of impacts focussed on effectiveness (i.e., intended impact); to our knowledge, no literature syntheses focussed on both intended and unintended impacts. A systematic scoping review was conducted in which a search strategy was developed iteratively and literature was obtained from experts in alcohol research and scientific and grey databases. Ninety-one studies were extracted and analysed using formative thematic content analysis. Intended impacts were reported in 119 units of information from the studies (68% positive), forming four paths: implementation, primary and (two) on secondary societal harm and violence. Unintended developments were reported in 43 units of information (30% positive), forming five themes. Only eight studies reported on implementation. Furthermore, a division between primary and secondary paths and the use of a bridging variable (drinking patterns in analyses or methodology) was discovered. These results provide an insight into how well legislation works and can be used to discover or implement new means of curbing underage drinking and alcohol-related violence and harm. They also offer valuable starting points for future research and underline the importance of considering unintended developments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1999
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2021


  • minimum legal drinking age
  • alcohol policy
  • policy impact
  • societal harm
  • societal violence
  • public health
  • underage youth
  • environmental research
  • scoping review

Cite this