The numbers are debated, but a new study suggests somewhere between a quarter to more than a third of Russian men die from alcoholism.
While we always try to take studies with a grain of salt, this one certainly raises our eyebrows.
To be quite frank, we hope this is not an accurate study. We generally try to take these things with a grain of salt, whether they confirm our beliefs or not, simply because of how easy it is to skew results in any study. As an aside, as we saw in the last blog, simply using the word “science” does not make something valid.
This one is a little different.
There are a lot of anecdotes from before the time of Alcoholics Anonymous and drug rehab centers here in America that sounded remarkably close to these figures. While Alcoholics Anonymous and other Twelve Step programs have spread across the globe, the acceptance of alcoholism and addiction as a disease is still elusive in some places. Instead, people in some parts of the world are far more inclined to accept that alcoholism does not exist, simply because it is so pervasive.
And pervasive it is. The study in question tracked 151,000 men in three different cities over the course of 11 years. Of those who drank three half-liters of vodka a week or more, 35% died. Let us be clear—that is not a liter and a half a day. That is a liter and a half a week.
I can only speak for myself, and being an alcoholic, my perception is probably a bit skewed, but that does not strike me as a whole lot.
Another interesting finding: Russians on average drank 20 liters of vodka a year. That is almost seven times higher than the British—whose men also happen to have a death rate of 7% before the age of 55.
While Finland and Poland had heavy drinking populations, no one had the mortality rate even close to the Russians. Sir Richard Peto, lead researcher, said, “Russians clearly drink a lot but it’s this pattern of getting really smashed on vodka and then continuing to drink that is dangerous.”
If that does not exemplify alcoholism and alcoholic behavior, I do not know what does.
Can anything be done about this? Maybe, but it takes a huge cultural shift to get to that point, and so far, little suggests that is changing.
David Leon, a professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who has also studied the impact of alcohol in Russia but was not part of the Lancet study, said, “It’s not considered out of order to drink until you can’t function in Russia.”
Obviously, this is going to be an up-hill battle, but this attitude was pervasive in much of the West not too long ago—indeed, is still deeply ingrained in some areas and cultures in our country today.
If there is one thing recovery teaches us, though, it is that the fight is not over until we are counted as part of the statistic.
What are your thoughts? Are you surprised alcoholism kills this many people? Did you think it would be more or less? Let us know in the comments!