Drinking Alcohol

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?

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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.

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.

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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.”

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.

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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’.

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Look for our free official app in the Google Play Store and in iTunes. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


Do you drink alcohol? Why or why not?


Avatar Spotlight
said on April 16, 2018

I suppose if we are considering on drinking alcohol we will have to come to logical conclusion that negative aspects of drinking alcohol may outbalance positive ones. Surely, there is an undoubtadle fact alcohol has the power to connect people together, improve mood or encourage mind, creativity too. Moreover drinking red wine in moderation may be beneficial for our heart to prevent it from serious diseases. On the contrary, drinking too much alcohol can lead to big danger of getting alcohol addiction that in any case can destroy whole people’s life, their family or friend relationships, job and even the health eventually. It is true absolutely, improper using of alcohol compel people to make the bad, hurried decisions, to risk overly or even to criminal actions and sexual violence as well. I think all of us should follow a basic important rule which means to drink alcohol properly in moderation at all events!

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 18, 2018

I use to drink a cup of red wine at home, once or twice a week. I eventually also drink beer with my relatives when we gathering the family, but I avoid distilled drinks, like whiskey or others. However, I’m responsible and never drive after drinking alcohol.

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 18, 2018

Alcohol is the biggest disgrace that can happen in the life of a human being. My father was an alcoholic addict and it produced a lot of unhappiness in the whole family, with their drunkenness. I like to talk with friends, sing and go to parties to dance and have fun. I always do this, and I have a lot of fun without, however, drinking even a drop of alcohol. Who amuses myself and not alcohol.
Try going to a party and not drinking alcohol. Just by observing the behavioral changes of the people who drink. I bet you’ll never drink alcohol again in your life.

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 19, 2018

Health is important to us in life. We need good health of physique and spirit. Good health of physique helps us do our work well. Good health of spirit helps us be able to do beautiful good things. We may be able to drink alcohol. We know about harmful effects of alcohol on health and problems related to alcohol. If we drink a moderate amount of alcohol a day it will not affect our health badly. If we become addicted to alcohol or we drink too much alcohol it will affect our health and people’s lives around badly. Health is important to us in life. We need good health of physique and spirit. We have our responsibilities and duties in life. There are plenty of beautiful good works that need everyone’s participation in life.

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said on May 01, 2018

I never drink alcohol now. I think it’s unsafe.

There are bad people in each society. Someone can use easy, long and careless communication for tampering or worse things. It can be done gradually and not in the open. And even without alcohol.

I mean it’s necessary to uphold certain boundaries in social relation.  Alcohol erases these boundaries.

I read antioxidants do not cover negative effects even small amount of alcohol.

Avatar Spotlight
said on September 09, 2019

I don’t drink alcohol at all
cuz I’m Muslim and we shouldn’t drink it, allah prevents us from drinking it cuz its bad effect and a person who drinks forbidden to pray cuz he is out of his mind and he can’t not know what he’s saying
When allah prevents something he know exactly that the disadvantage of it worse than advantage
And the worst thing of drinking alcohol when a person wake up n can’t remember what he had done
But i wanna try it once in my life

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on September 10, 2019

From .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To spotlight program
Subject to answer the questions below
Date Tuesday 10, September 2019
São Paulo city SP Brazil

Dear Bruce Gulland, Liz Waid, Adam Navis, and Michio Ozaki

Thank you for bringing us more one great article.
Question 1 - Do you drink alcohol?
Answer 1 - No, I do not. I have never drunk alcohol.
Question 2 - Why or why not?
Answer 2 - Because I do no like alcohol. God made the alcohol to move the cars, to clean up the sufaces, and glasses, and etc. Furthermore, alcohol is a very hurtful drink to the health and brain.
Your regards,
God bless you
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on September 12, 2019

Hello everybody
About your question, I tell you what
At the moment, I am a social drinking.
I drinked my first glass of alcohol when i am fourteen years old, but my parents always recommended me that is bad.
Drink alcohol may kill, and end with your life,
The topic is very important, because in our community each party have a drink.

Avatar Spotlight
said on January 07, 2020

I don’t drink it at all, i believe it’s bad for my health and actually i really prefer to think straight all the time. But i can’t hide this fact that sometimes i want to try red wine, fortunately (or unfortunately idk really!) Selling drinks that include alcohol is not legal in my country Iran. So we can’t get these kind of drinks without trouble.