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One in four Russian men die by 55 due to alcohol

Published:  03 February, 2014

A collaborative study between Russia, Oxford University and the World Health Organisation found that 25% of all Russian men die before the age of 55 primarily due to over consumption of alcohol, particularly vodka.

The study, thought to be the largest of its kind in Russia, interviewed 200,000 adults between 1998- 2008, following "cause-specific mortality".  Of the 200,000 interviewed, the study conducted by the Russian Cancer Centre in Moscow, Oxford University in the UK and the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer, in France, tracked the drinking patterns of 151,000 adults in the Russian cities of Barnaul, Byisk, and Tomsk over the 10 year period.  

Liver disease, alcohol poisoning, and alcohol related accidents or getting into fights were the primary causes of death in the 8,000 deaths researched, in addition to the 49,000 other deaths examined in previous studies.

Political stability, a less regulated market and binge drinking seem to be major contributing factors to Russian men having access to alcohol and particularly vodka.

Professor Sir Richard Peto of Oxford University said: "Alcohol restrictions and social stability varied under Presidents Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin, and the main thing driving these wild fluctuations in death was vodka. When President Yeltsin took over from President Gorbachev, the overall death rates in young men more than doubled. This was as society collapsed and vodka became much more freely available."

Russia has been making legislative changes in an effort to reduce consumption levels, including the 17% raise in the minimum price of vodka that went into effect on January 1, 2014.  Further prices are expected throughout the year, with an additional price hike slated for August, which will bring the overall increase in the minimum price of vodka up 30% in 2014.

The government also banned alcohol advertisements in the media in July 2012 in an effort to curb consumption as well.

The collaborative study was published by The Lancet medical journal.