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Jan 31, 2014 08:22 AM EST

Blame Vodka for Early Deaths in Russian Men, Study

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A new Oxford University study found vodka to be the main cause of early deaths in Russia.

Researchers said that 25 percent of Russian men die before the age of 55 when compared to 7 percent of UK men. The difference in the death rate between both the countries is mainly due to alcohol and cigarettes.

The finding based on a 15 year study calls for a limit on alcohol and tobacco consumption in Russia. The country is listed among the 50 nations with lower life expectancies and the average lifespan of a Russian man is about 64 years.

"Russian death rates have fluctuated wildly over the past 30 years as alcohol restrictions and social stability varied under Presidents Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin, and the main thing driving these wild fluctuations in death was vodka," Professor Sir Richard Peto of the Clinical Trial Service Unit at the University of Oxford, said in a statement.

For the study, the researchers surveyed 151,000 Russians about their vodka habits and then observed them for a decade. During the study period, 8000 deaths were reported.

About five years before the current study, researchers approached families of 49,000 people who died in three different Russian cities: Barnaul, Byisk and Tomsk. The families were questioned about the deceased's vodka behaviour.

From both the studies, the researchers found that men, who consumed three or more half litre bottles of vodka per week, had higher risk of early death compared to men who drank less than one bottle a week.

"Russian death rates have fluctuated wildly over the past 30 years as alcohol restrictions and social stability varied under Presidents Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin, and the main thing driving these wild fluctuations in death was vodka,' says Professor Sir Richard Peto of the Clinical Trial Service Unit at the University of Oxford.

Other reasons that are fuelling the higher death rates in Russian men are alcohol poisoning, accidents, violence and suicide. Diseases linked to alcohol such as throat cancer, liver cancer, tuberculosis, pneumonia, pancreatitis, liver disease and heart disease are also major causes of deaths in Russia.

"On its own, the overall volume of alcohol consumed in Russia, albeit high, cannot explain the high alcohol attributable mortality; it is the combination of high overall volume with the specific pattern of episodic binges that is necessary to explain the high level and fluctuating trends of total and alcohol-attributed mortality in Russia," Dr Jurgen Rehm from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada said.

The finding has been published in The Lancet.

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