According to a new study published in the august medical journal Lancet, a quarter of Russian men will never make it to the age of 55, thanks to alcohol and its deadly effects, like liver disease and drunk driving. The good news: 25 percent of men not making it to 55 is a lot better than 40 percent, which is what the that figure was in 2006.
The reason for that drop is one of the motors behind the study — a joint effort from the Russian Cancer Center is Moscow, Oxford University, and the World Health Organization. In 2006, Russia began introducing and enforcing stricter alcohol measures and began raising the price of liquor. And these organizations found that the stricter rules did coincide with a drop in alcohol consumption and the proportion of men dying before 55.
But a quarter is still a lot and Russian adults still love their vodka. In the U.K., only around 7 percent of men don't make to 55, and its fewer than 1 percent in the U.S. "Lead researcher Sir Richard Peto of Oxford University said the average Russian adult drank 20 liters of vodka per year while the average Briton drank about three liters of spirits," the Guardian reported.
"Heavy drinkers in this study were getting through at least a liter and a half of vodka a week," the BBC reported. The study found that the risk of those heavy drinkers dying before the age of 55 was 35 percent.
The problem then isn't just the amount of alcohol that Russian men drink, but also how they drink. "They binge drink. That's the main problem. It's the pattern of drinking not the per-capita amount they are drinking," Researcher David Zaridze, from the Russian Cancer Research Center said.
It's unclear how many Russian men drank three or more liters a week, but the study, touted as the largest of its kind in the country,examined 151,000 Russian men in three Russian cities from 1999 to 2010. In that span 8,000 of them died. And researchers believe this may be connected to Russian drinking culture.
"The rate of men dying prematurely in Russia is totally out of line with the rest of Europe," Peto said. "There's also a heavy drinking culture in Finland and Poland but they still have nothing like Russia's risk of death," he added.