A study published yesterday reveals the terrible cost of Russia’s love affair with vodka. It blamed alcohol addiction for more than half of all deaths among Russians in their prime years and said that the scale of the carnage was comparable to a war.
The report, which appeared in The Lancet, said that three quarters of deaths among men and half of deaths among women aged 15-54 were attributable to alcohol abuse. The mortality rate in Russia in this age group was five times higher for men and three times higher for women than in Western Europe.
The report calculated that alcohol had killed three million Russians since Mikhail Gorbachev tried and failed to restrict sales in 1987.
The Russian, British and French researchers said that “excess mortality from liver cancer, throat cancer, liver disease and pancreatic disease is largely or wholly because alcohol caused the disease that caused death”.
The findings will fuel the debate about a slump in life expectancy in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, particularly among men. The average Russian man now lives little more than 60 years, compared with 77 years for men in Western Europe, while Russian women die on average at 73, nine years earlier than their European counterparts.
“Alcohol consumption is always connected with poverty. It’s been associated with social crisis. If we take our mortality statistics, it will be obvious that it’s parallel to our social crisis,” said Professor Zaridze, head of the Russian Cancer Research Centre.
As the author of Proverbs warns, intoxication is not wise. “Wine is a mocker, Strong drink [is] a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” A special warning is also given to those in leadership about the dangers of drunkenness.