As People Drink To The New Year, Here’s How Legal Drinking Ages Differ Across The World

In Burkina Faso, the legal drinking age is 13, whereas, in Eritrea, it is 25.

image of someone giving the thumbs up to a glass of beer
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In Burkina Faso, the legal drinking age is 13, whereas, in Eritrea, it is 25.

As people drink to the new year, there are those that are not allowed to drink due to the age restrictions in their countries. While people may be aware of the drinking restrictions in their own country, around the world, the legal age at which people can drink — or purchase alcohol — can vary dramatically. In fact, the youngest legal drinking age is 13 and the oldest is 25. So, how does your country compare?

According to CNN, in Burkina Faso, it is legal to purchase or to be served alcohol at the age of 13. Whereas, Eritrea, in East Africa, one must be aged 25 or older in order to drink. Additionally, some countries have a total ban on alcohol and it is not legal for either the purchase, supply, or consumption of alcohol in those countries. On top of that, CNN also points out that as of 2016, “age limits for on-premise service and off-premise purchases of alcohol did not exist in 11 and 24 countries, respectively,” according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Mostly, though, the majority legal age for alcohol supply and consumption usually falls in the 18 to 20 age bracket. According to Pro Con, 116 countries, or 61 percent fall into the 18-19 age bracket when it comes to the legal consumption of alcohol. Surprisingly, 20 countries, or 11 percent, also allow the legal age of alcohol consumption to fall into the 16-17 age bracket. This is considered the next largest age bracket regarding the legal alcohol consumption age. Whereas, having the legal age set at 21 is only held by 12 countries (6 percent), including the U.S.

“By far, the bulk of age limits are around 18 and 20, but there are a considerable number of countries that have 21,” said Dag Rekve, a researcher in the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO in Geneva, Switzerland.

“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.”

In the U.S., you may have to be 21-years-old in order to purchase alcohol, but if you pop over the border into Mexico, the legal age is actually 18-year-old. As it also is in some countries in Africa, Australia, Russia, parts of Canada, and most of South America. Although, Paraguay in South America, requires people to be 20 years or older when it comes to the legal age to purchase alcohol. Other countries that include an age limit of 20 also includes Japan, South Korea, Uzbekistan, and Iceland.

The World Health Organization also lists Iran, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia as having a total ban on alcohol. In addition, according to a map released by the World Health Organization, there is no data recorded regarding age limits pertaining to alcohol purchase in Greenland and Antarctica.