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.

Voice 2  

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.

Follow along on YouTube
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.

Voice 2  

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.

Voice 1  

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
Voice 2  

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.

Voice 1  

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.

Voice 3  

“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.”

Voice 2  

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.

Voice 1  

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.

Voice 2  

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.

Voice 4  

“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.”

Voice 1  

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.

Voice 5  

“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.”

Voice 1  

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.

Voice 2  

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.

Voice 1  

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 You can also comment on Facebook at

Voice 2  

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 This program is called, ‘Drinking Alcohol’.


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

Other Programs You Might Like:



See the Advanced version of this program on YouTube
Join the discussion

  • To be honest, I don’t like this new page. I love it before. Because I found so many radios. Example music as medicine, easter traditions or community radio in Bangladesh, but now I can’t found it. I wanna hear them again. And before, when I access the page I can see new radio, it appears top of the page. But now I don’t know where is new radio?. I love so much this page, it helps me learn English and improve my listening skill. So I hope can listen more and more radio programs. Thank you

  • When I was young, I used to drink alcohol. I’m 78 years old and I don’t like to drink it. In spite of that I enjoy doing phisical exercices, playing the guitar and singing, (not proffesionaly), learning foreing languages.So I feel good and more healthy,

  • I’m arllegic with alcohol, when I drink it immediarly have red in my skin, get clots in my face . So I say no with alcohol
    Thank you so much about this page, it help me to learn English.

  • From:
    To: spotilight program
    Subject: to answer to the questions below
    Date: Sunday 12, July 2020
    Location: São Paulo city – São Paulo Brasil

    Dear Liz Waid, Adam Navis, Bruce Gulland, and Michio Ozaki
    First, I want to thank you for bringing us more one great article. Thank you very much.
    Question 1- Do you drink alcohol?
    Answer 1- No, I do not drink alcohol. I have never drunk alcohol.
    Question 2- Why? or Why not?
    Answer 2- Because my parents taught me not to drink alcohol so I grew up with that education. Never drinking alcohol.
    Thank you very much and stay with God.
    Severino from Brasil

  • Well, I personally only drink when there are special days between family, sometimes between friends but with responsibility without affecting me.

  • Dear Spotlight program!
    Thanks for your information.
    In my mind, drinking alcohol is bad.
    So I always say no with alcohol.
    But we all knew, in alcohol has substances that cause addiction and when you are in drinking party, the other enjoyer will challenge you for drink, plusing fun environment of the party will makes you hard to control that you drunk much or not.
    I am Christian, so I usually pray to my God that: “Please do not give me any chance for drink”
    Sharing my opinion as above.
    Thank you!

  • Alcohol has bad effects more than good effects, and the good effects don’t have huge or Noticeable benefits, so it is better for me to not drink it and also, it is haram. The best way to use alcohol is in medicine.

  • I never drink alcohol till nowadays and I don’t have plan to drink it in the future because I am happy and enjoying from my life without alcohol no need for another addition from my research after drinking an disappointment is coming to the person which drink to much alcohol
    And should point that thanks from these too much interest information of you.

  • I never drink alcohol at all . I’m a Muslim our religious remind us to avoid drink alcohol cause there are many side effects that hurts our body’s it is harmful you can’t control your actions . On my opinion the person who addict drink Alcohol may do any crime cause he can’t control him self .

  • Somitimes I drink alcohol. And I do not see anything terrible in this. It helps me some relax and disconnect from problems a little. There are a lot of diseases in the world from which die faster and more often, but I believe that alcohol in moderation does not harm health. For instance, my grandpa also drank alcohol whole his life and he died at the age of 96 in solid memory. And he did everything around the house himself.

  • I never drink alcohol because Islam forbids it because it harms the mind and Islam preserves the mind

  • hi, I am from Syria I don’t drink alcohol because it has a more of problems and my community is renounced this does.

  • First of all, I think moderation is the key.

    Sometimes before, I drank alcohol with friends and family specially in parties or social events. Now, I prefer not drink at all for many reasons, headache, stomacache and feel bad.

    To be fresh it’s better.

  • Hello, I am Luan from Viet Nam. Thanks Spotlight team for all you have done for english learners like me! I think let use alcohol in moderation we will think life is not boring and worth living. There is some kind of good motion and creativity will be found while we are drinking, but let make sure we do not abuse it.

  • I don’t drink Alkohol at all,becuse I am A Muslim . ,Allah (my god) said do not drink alkohol so I am sure there are some diapear reasons may hurt me and Allah knows more than me.

  • to be honest i did not drink wine and l will not drink it at all because my religion teach me that and i hope every people stop to drink it ,then they will see the better in their life

  • i have never drink wine and i will not drink it at all because my religious teaches me that. of course i hope every one stop drinking alcohol ,then they will see the life better

  • I never had drink alcohol because I AM MUSLIMS
    and thanks god to guide us in the right way because the alcohol it harmful more than beneficial

  • I’m prefer drink none at all cuz I’m muslim and my religion prevents alcohol. I really see the alcohol affects in badly wary more than it has a benefit. And the little benefits can take from many things it is really benefit like sport . It is have ability to improve heart health without any risk that’s all thank you .

  • Absolutely, l didn’t drink alcohol, because I’m a Muslim, and we know all alcohol that it is unhealthy so don’t drink alcohol for yourself and your healthy

  • Virtually, alcohol comprises many unhealthy marterials however, sometimes, i opt it for paties because alcohol tends to build up an exciting atmostphere. Drinking alcohol in moderation is able to help people prevent heart-related problem. (Please give feedback for me because my english is not good, thanks

  • When I was young I drank alcohol, then as I got older I got smarter and decided to quit completely, because I thought it was easier to quit altogether than to try to use moderation. Alcohol is nothing more than a legal drug. When faced with a dangerous enemy, it is better to flee than to face him.

  • i don’t never drink alcohol and i will not it because it damages more than it Benefits in Hygienically and Psychologically …

  • Hello, I like wine and beer, I drink on weekend , a beer when I have my lunch or A wine cup at night . it is delicious, but I think that a lot beer or wine is bad for the healthy. Because I like sports

  • Hello, evebody! Yes, i drink alcohol on weekends, in fact i start drinking on friday night. I like mixing the drinks and create new flavors and drinks. You can try to drink a shot of gin or vodka mixed with three shots of martini vermouth and mint leaves, it’s tasting!

  • No I don’t drink alcohol all my life, because I am muslim and I fell bad to alcohol and I thinking it is not deleshes

  • I don’t drinking alcohol at all but I’d like to try drinking red wine in the future
    I think it’s having a good taste.

  • I have been drinking alcohol since i was in 3rd year of college. The first time I drank alcohol I was not able to carry my self I felt like my world spinning and I had nausea, vomiting, and headache. Since then I promised myself not to drink again because I don’t want it to feel that pain and feelings of discomfort but when days past I still drink again. I’m happy that I have chosen wine instead of drinking hard liquor.

  • No , I don’t because I Muslim and we should not drink it also alcohol is very bad to health.

  • No, i don’t drink alchol.
    I mean, i have never try to drink of alcohol.
    Beacuse we are buddhism who against drinking alchol. In addition, My parents don’t
    allow to me .They always see me just like a kid.

  • I don’t like to drink alcohol because my religion is preventing us of drink it because there is a lot of risks in it . also if it’s okay I don’t want to drink it at all because I like to have better concentration all the time .

  • At the party, I sometimes drink alcohol because everyone at the party invites me to drink. I find that drinking alcohol is one of the ways to cominucate at the party. it helps people connect together. But I don’t like drinking alcohol, because if I drink alcohol too much , I can lose control and act out of the ordinary.

  • thanks for this program, I love it because it helps me to learn English and improve my listening skill, I hope to speak English in the future, thanks a lot for making this program

  • I don’t drink alcohol at all cause keeping my mind well and my religion doesn’t allow me to drink it because there is a lot of risks in it, I think it’s not good for everyone

  • 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.

  • No , I don’t, and I will never drink alcohol. Because it has a bad effect on my life , and it’s not allowed in my religion

More from this show

Episode 3