Russia’s deadly relationship with alcoholism

Russia's deadly relationship with alcoholism

Russia has recently announced a decision to raise the prices of alcohol in an effort to combat a problem with alcoholism that former president Dmitry Medvedev declared a “national disaster” back in 2009 – following a study done by Oxford University and the Russian Cancer Research Centre in Moscow.

The study found that more than 50% of all Russian male deaths between the ages of 15 and 54 were due to alcohol – whether from alcohol poisoning, accidents, violence, or fatal diseases caused by alcohol. 33% of all Russian female deaths in the same age range were also a result of alcohol.

These figures are incredibly high, and it’s likely due to the fact that Russia’s alcohol consumption rate is almost two times the global average. The country also has one of the lowest life expectancies in Europe.

In 2009, Dmitry Medvedev cracked down on alcohol regulations, and in the past few years Russia has seen not only an increase in taxes on alcohol, but they are no longer allowed to advertise for alcohol, they have decreased the hours of which they are legally allowed to sell alcohol, they have banned the sale of alcohol from many kiosks, they have considered raising the legal age of consumption from 18 to 21, and they will be implementing a price increase of almost 30% on many spirits by August 2014. However, many people are skeptical that the price increase will have any positive effects on the situation.

The problem, say some, cannot be dealt with on a financial level. Increasing the costs of alcohol in the past has lead to a rise in the consumption of boot-legged vodka which can often be fatal even in low doses. So what can they do? Many experts believe that until Russia changes its views on alcohol consumption, the problem will not get better.

It’s no secret that Russians have a special sort of relationship with alcohol, and in particular  Vodka – which translates almost literally to water in Russian. In fact, it seems that most Russians view drinking alcohol, even in very large quantities, as completely acceptable (and normal) behaviour. However, when the World Health Organization is estimating that only 40% of school aged Russians will live to be 55-60 years of age – due largely to over-consumption of alcohol  – perhaps it’s time for Russia to take a long, hard look at this deadly relationship and start making some changes.