Alcohol Abstainers in Scotland Feel Stigmatized

A large proportion of people in Scotland who are teetotalers (alcohol abstainers) feel stigmatized simply because they don’t drink, concludes a study supported by the Scottish government.

The research for the Scottish Executive found that 42 percent of non-drinkers “are made to feel socially unacceptable and ’odd’” because they don’t drink.

This is not good news: Societies in which there is strong social pressure either to drink or to abstain tend to have a high rate of alcohol related-problems.

A number of societies have low rates of alcohol-related problems with most of their members drinking and doing so frequently. Among Italians, Greeks, Jews, Spaniards, Portuguese and many others around the world, most people drink daily but experience very few alcohol problems. These groups all share three major keys to success in preventing alcohol problems:

  1. The substance of alcohol is seen as rather neutral, being inherently neither a magic elixir nor a passport to maturity, success and prosperity. It’s how alcohol is used that is all-important.
  2. There are two equally acceptable choices for those legally able to drink:
    • One choice is to drink in moderation.
    • The other choice is to abstain.
    What is never acceptable for anyone of any age under any circumstance is to abuse alcohol.
  3. Young people learn about alcohol from an early age within the home by good example. These groups would all agree that it’s better to learn about alcohol in the parents’ house than in the fraternity house.

People who choose not to drink should never be asked why they are not drinking, should never be coaxed or encouraged to drink, and should never be made to feel odd or strange because of their choice.

Similarly, people who drink in moderation should never be made to feel as if they were alcohol abusers, doing drugs, drinking a “poison,” or otherwise be made to feel odd or strange. “Live and let live” is the best policy for abstaining and moderate drinking.


  • McAuley, Chris. Teetotalers feel stigmatized just because they don’t drink. The Scotsman, October 10, 2005.

Filed Under: Abuse