Get access

‘I have no interest in drinking’: a cross-national comparison of reasons why men and women abstain from alcohol use


Sharon Bernards, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Suite 200, 100 Collip Circle, London, ON, Canada N6G 2X8. E-mail:


Aims  To examine country differences in reasons for abstaining including the association of reasons with country abstaining rate and drinking pattern.

Participants  Samples of men and women from eight countries participating in the GENACIS (Gender Alcohol and Culture: an International Study) project.

Methods  Surveys were conducted with 3338 life-time abstainers and 3105 former drinkers. Respondents selected all applicable reasons for not drinking from a provided list. Analyses included two-level hierarchical linear modelling (HLM) regression.

Findings  Reasons for abstaining differed significantly for life-time abstainers compared to former drinkers, by gender and age, and by country-level abstaining rate and frequency of drinking. Life-time abstainers were more likely than former drinkers to endorse ‘no interest’, ‘religion’ and ‘upbringing’ and more reasons overall. Gender differences, especially among former drinkers, suggested that norms restricting drinking may influence reasons that women abstain (‘no interest’, ‘not liking taste’) while drinking experiences may be more important considerations for men (‘afraid of alcohol problems’, ‘bad effect on activities’). Younger age was associated with normative reasons (‘no interest’, ‘taste’, ‘waste of money’) and possibly bad experiences (‘afraid of problems’). Reasons such as ‘religion’, ‘waste of money’ and ‘afraid of alcohol problems’ were associated with higher country-level rates of abstaining. Higher endorsement of ‘drinking is bad for health’ and ‘taste’ were associated with a country pattern of less frequent drinking while ‘not liking effects’ was associated with higher drinking frequency.

Conclusions  Reasons for abstaining depend on type of abstainer, gender, age and country drinking norms and patterns.