Russia counts the cost of its vodka habit

Vodka consumption has been closely linked to data showing that 25% of Russian men will die before the age of 55.

RussiaPublished in The Lancet, the study built upon previous, smaller research projects in this area, reinforcing their conclusion that “alcohol, particularly vodka, is a major cause of premature death in Russia.”

The study, which was carried out over an 11-year period, focused its data gathering on 151,000 individuals across three Russian cities with no previous illness and combined this information with age-specific death rates.

Of these, 12,505 men said that they consumed between one and three half-litres of vodka each week. Heavy drinking was less prevalent among women, with 1,209 saying that they consumed more than half a litre of vodka per week.

In addition, the study noted a strong correlation between high alcohol consumption and smoking, finding that “almost all Russians who drink more than a bottle of vodka a week also smoke.”

The report also interviewed the families of 50,000 people who had died, not necessarily from diseases directly related to alcohol use. Despite this, the study found “a marked excess of heavy vodka use” in people whose death was attributed to external causes such as violence, accidents and suicide.

Of these 50,000 deceased, 47% of the men and 11% of the women were reported to have drunk at least a bottle of vodka per week, with many said to have drunk on average half a bottle of vodka per day.

The current figures nevertheless represent a marked improvement on the 37% death rate for this age bracket seen in 2005. This decline has been boosted by the 2006 introduction of tougher alcohol regulations, which saw spirits consumption fall by 33% between 2005 and 2009.

Commenting on this shift, the report’s authors noted: “Since 2005, Russian consumption of spirits and male mortality before age 55 years both decreased by about a third but are still substantial.”

By comparison, around 7% of UK males are expected to die before they reach 55 years old.

Russia is the world’s largest vodka market consuming 1.37 billion litres in 2012.

To read the full report, click here.

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