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June 26, 2009 3:00 am
The shocking toll of alcohol in Russia during the decade after the fall of the Soviet Union is revealed by a large international study published in the Lancet.
More than half of all deaths in Russian 15 to 54-year-olds between 1990 and 2001 were due to excessive drinking, the authors say. Alcohol is the main reason why even in 2006 mortality in this age group was five times higher for men and three times higher for women than in western Europe.
The study analysed 60,000 deaths in three typical Russian cities (Tomsk, Barnaul and Biysk) and related the causes of mortality to the drinking habits of the deceased, as described by surviving family members.
Deaths from accidents, violence, alcohol poisoning, acute heart disease, throat and liver cancer and pancreatic disease were strongly related to excessive drinking, the researchers say. Drinkers also died more frequently from infections, particularly tuberculosis and pneumonia.
Alcohol consumption in Russia is believed to have doubled after the collapse of Soviet-era controls and it is still among the highest in the world.
In an editorial linked to the study, the Lancet says: "Russia must stop or tax the illicit production of spirits, believed to account for at least 50 per cent of consumption in the country. This in turn means confrontation with organised criminals and corrupt officials."
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