Vodka is synonymous with Russian culture but it seems a passion for the spirit and a love of binge drinking of spirits in general is causing pre-mature death amongst the country’s male population.
The largest study of it’s kind in the country, found a shocking 25 per cent of all Russian men die before reaching 55 – and most of the deaths are due to alcohol.
This places the average life expectancy for russian men at 64 years – making it among the lowest 50 countries in the world for that category.
Just to demonstrate how large the number is, the UK’s comparable figure is seven per cent and in the US it’s just one per cent.
Published in The Lancet, the research reveals alcohol poisoning and liver disease are amongst the main causes of death for the Russian male population. Car accidents or fights, fuelled by alcohol, are also a major killer.
Researchers from the Russia’s Cancer Centre in Moscow partnered with the UK’s Oxford University and the World Health Organization led the study which tracked the drinking patterns of more than 100,000 adults in three Russian cities over a decade. During which 8,000 men surveyed died.
The number of those surveyed who said that they drank three of more half-litre bottles of vodka was a staggering 35 per cent.
One of the study’s lead researchers, Sir Richard Peto of Oxford University, told reporters that the average Russian adults drank 20 litres of vodka every year.
“Russians clearly drink a lot but it’s this pattern of getting really smashed on vodka and then continuing to drink that is dangerous,” Peto argued.
“The rate of men dying prematurely in Russia is totally out of line with the rest of Europe,” he said. “There’s also a heavy drinking culture in Finland and Poland but they still have nothing like Russia’s risk of death.”
Part of the problem is that drinking is so engrained in the culture – in fact there’s even a Russian word to describe binge drinking over several days: ‘zapoi’.
Researcher Professor David Zaridze, from the Russian Cancer Research Centre, told reporters: “They binge drink. That’s the main problem. It’s the pattern of drinking not the per-capita amount they are drinking.”
“Russians have always drunk a lot. They sometimes say it’s because of the cold weather but this is just an excuse. This is the nation’s lifestyle that needs to change.
The study’s authors argue that changing drinking patterns in russia was possible and necessary but would require significant cultural adjustment to work.