Photo by John Cafazza

Bruce Gulland and Liz Waid look at how people around the world drink alcohol. Some drink every day, but some never drink it. Why is there such a difference?

Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Bruce Gulland.

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And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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Voice 1  

Imagine two men. Ahmad lives in Saudi Arabia. Alexander lives in Russia. These men are similar in many ways. They each work for a computer company. They each have a wife and two children. They each play on a local football team each Saturday. But there is something different about these two men. On many days after work, Alexander meets friends to drink beer and tell stories. Ahmad does not do this. He has never had a drink of alcohol in his whole life.

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Ahmad and Alexander are not real people. But they represent many real people around the world. They also represent two positions on drinking alcohol. The first position is that people can drink alcohol every day. The second position is that people should never drink alcohol. But why is there such a difference? Is one correct? Today’s Spotlight is on drinking alcohol around the world.

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In 2014, the World Health Organization did a study on alcohol and public health. They found that people around the world over 15 years old drank 13 grams of alcohol every day. This is about one drink each day. However, that is an average. Over 60 percent of people in the world do not drink any alcohol. This means that people who do drink, really average two drinks each day.

people drinking beer
Photo by Elevate
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The countries with the highest levels of drinking are countries of Eastern Europe. These include Russia, but also Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania, Romania, and Ukraine. A country like Belarus has almost two times the global average. People in Belarus average four alcoholic drinks every day.

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But drinking alcohol is nothing new. People have been drinking alcohol for thousands of years. Experts have found ancient evidence that people drank alcohol. Andrew Curry wrote about this evidence for National Geographic.

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“Experts have shown that alcohol is one of the most universally produced and enjoyed substances in history. People were drinking alcohol long before they invented writing. Recent chemical research showed that the Chinese were making a kind of wine from rice, honey, and fruit 9,000 years ago. In the Caucasus Mountains of modern-day Georgia and the Zagros Mountains of Iran, grapes were one of the earliest fruits farmers grew. Wine was made as early as 7,400 years ago.”

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But still, half the world does not drink any alcohol at all. The countries that drink the lowest amount of alcohol are Pakistan, Kuwait, Bangladesh, and Saudi Arabia. Most of the people in these countries are Muslim — they follow the religion of Islam. Many people in these countries believe that they should not drink alcohol at all.

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Islam is not the only religion that speaks against drinking alcohol. Many religions warn against drinking alcohol or drinking too much of it. There are warnings against drinking too much alcohol in Judaism, Christianity, Buddism, and Hinduism.

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So, half the world drinks alcohol every day. The other half of the world does not drink any. Why does alcohol divide people so much? Iain Gately is the author of the book Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol. He spoke the radio program, On The Media.

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“When I looked into the subject of alcohol, I was surprised most by the two different and opposite sides of alcohol. In fact, the Greek god of wine, Dionysus, had exactly those two sides to his character. He could be loving and he supported the theater and many of the arts. Yet, at the same time, he could suddenly be full of anger and violence.”

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There are risks in drinking alcohol. One big risk is alcohol addiction – when a person must drink alcohol before anything else. Alcohol addiction can cause people to lose their job, friends, or even their lives. But even in situations that are not as bad, alcohol can have negative effects. When people drink alcohol they do not make the same decisions they would if they were not drinking. People who drink alcohol are more likely to do risky things. This could include driving a car, fighting, taking drugs, or having sex. These risks do not always just affect the person drinking – they can affect other people too. For example, when a person decides to drink alcohol and drive a car, he or she could kill another person.

Photo by Michael Discenza
Voice 2  

Drinking a lot of alcohol is also bad for your health. If a person stops drinking for as little as 30 days, positive changes can happen in their body. People will have less fat in their liver. Their skin will be clearer. They will sleep better, have better concentration, and lose weight. Dr. James Ferguson spoke to NPR about giving up alcohol.

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“People always forget the amount of calories in alcohol. If you take a month off from drinking and you usually drink 20 drinks in that time, you are going to lose weight and fat. It is a very big decrease in calories.”

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So with all these negative risks, why would someone drink alcohol? Because there are also good things that come from drinking alcohol. Experts encourage people to drink in moderation. That is, they drink a moderate, or responsible amount. When people drink in moderation, it can bring people together. In 2012 Psychological Science published a study. They found that alcohol helped people in social situations feel connected to each other. It increased the amount of time people talked to each other. And it reduced the amount of negative emotions they expressed. Drinking alcohol with other people creates community in the same way that laughing, singing and dancing can.

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But scientists have also found that some alcohol can have a good effect on health. For example, red wine contains substances called antioxidants. These substances can help prevent heart disease. Drinking red wine in moderation may be good for your heart.

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But for many people, these benefits are not worth it. They prefer to drink none at all. What about you? Do you enjoy drinking alcohol? Or do you not drink it at all? You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

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The writer of this program was Adam Navis. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Drinking Alcohol’.


Do you drink alcohol? Why or why not? Write you answer in the comments below?

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Join the discussion

  • Risks of drinking alcohol are more than the benefits, honestly the benefits are not a strong reason to drink alcohol for it.
    And not , I never drink alcohol in whole my life and I will not in future , am Muslim and alcohole is forbidden

  • I drink alcohol sometimes. I drink it when I attend a party or when my family or my company celebrate something. I also drink it when I eat seafood. I just drink a little alcohol, because it makes the party more fun, everybody will be . And drink alcohol when you eat seafood, it makes your taste better and easier to digest.

  • I don’t drink alcohol because it makes me feel sick with my stomach and headache. However, I think on some special occasions, like: a celebratory event, party,… Drink a glass of beer is the easiest way to connect with each other. But, everything will be terrible when people drink too much.

  • I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like for alcoholic beverages, Which means that I nevertheless consume them on sometimes. For example, during a family gathering, a business meeting, or a social gathering with my friends.
    Because of alcohol, we can more easily share something together, we don’t have any to worry about distance, and we can be ourselves. In a lovely restaurant, we can relax and have some food drink together.
    Drinking alcohol Is not inherently bad, in my view. It is dependent on each individual who makes use of it. If you consume alcohol in moderation, you will be able to maintain control over your actions and will not have adverse effect on others. I can tell it’s helping me to relax in some manner.

  • If you don’t drink alcohol, don’t start because of potential health benefits. However, if you drink a light to moderate amount and you’re healthy, you can probably continue as long as you drink responsibly. Be sure to check with your doctor about what’s right for your health and safety.

  • Hello
    I’m never drink alcohol all life, Why?
    Because my parents don’t drink alcohol in life
    Thank for this page

  • When I pass my exam, I and my friends often drink beers, but it not too much. And we just eat foods that is the main reason. If I have too alcohol, that is terrible, my head is bad in the next day.

  • no , for several reasons :
    first its not good smile
    second I am Muslim
    third my country not allow to drink alcohol

    just that

  • I don’t drink that because my religion prevents that. But, in my opinion I criticize who drink alcohol. I see negative points more than positive points

  • As a muslim in the first place I don’t drink alcohol cause my god told me to don’t drink it and he also said it has good benefits but its bad benefits are more then the good benefits I hope I explain it clearly

    • I’m sorry, I don’t have a study link. However, you should be able to confirm the information using trusted internet sites. It is good to make sure it is actually true!

  • I don’t drink Alcohol at all, because I’m a Muslim
    also, maybe Alcohol has some benefits but it has dangers more than benefits
    think you spotlight for this episode.

  • im not drink alcohol at all because my religion prevent us because the negative more than positive and the most negative in alcohol is mind goes and its problem for society.

  • I don‘t drink alcohol at all .I am muslim so it‘s haram , In the Qur’an we have a verse which means that the harms of alcohol outweigh its benefits, I see this in comments and your boudcast and even in life , thank God for Islam it always protect us.

  • I do not drink alcohol because it is forbeden in my relegion. As you said, there are many negative effects on drinking alcohol, especially, of those are addicted, such as liver cancer and fatty liver. Regarding the benefits of alcohol you mentioned, you can gain them from other natural sources without fermentation.

  • I haven’t drunk any alcoholic products in my life.frist, that’s because i’m Muslim,and drinking alcohol is not allowed in my religion.and because as my human nature if i drink and like it, i think i won’t be able to control my self,and at the end i will be addicted to it.

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