The Shocking Number of Russian Men Killed By Vodka

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Jan. 31 2014 11:55 AM

Vodka’s Death Toll

84804124-russian-veterans-of-the-afghan-war-drink-vodka-during-a
Russian veterans of the Afghan war drink vodka during a rally on Polonnaya hill in Moscow on Feb. 15, 2009.

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

A disturbing study in the Lancet looking at the causes of mortality tracked 151,000 men over 10 years, during which 8,000 of them died. They found that “risk of dying before age 55 for those who said they drank three or more half-liter bottles of vodka a week was shocking 35 percent.”

The average Russian adult drinks about 13 liters of pure alcohol per year, of which 8 liters is hard alcohol, mainly vodka. For men, it’s closer to 20 liters. (Americans, by contrast, consume an average of about 9 liters of alcohol per year, half of which is beer.)

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Overall, as the Guardian notes, “a quarter of Russian men die before reaching 55, compared with 7% of men in the UK and fewer than 1% in the United States. The life expectancy for men in Russia is 64 years, placing it among the lowest 50 countries in the world in that category.”

The good news is that alcohol control measures imposed by the government in 2006 appear to be having some effect. Alcohol consumption has fallen by a third since then, with a corresponding 12 percent drop in the pre-55 death rate. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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