HEALTH Alcoholism cuts lives short in Russia

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Russians appear to be drinking themselves to death at a rate unmatched anywhere else in modern times, researchers say. The average life expectancy for Russian men fell by 6.2 years and for women by 3.4 years between 1990 and 1994, and a major reason for that was a high consumption of alcohol, according to a report in the Lancet.

"The available evidence suggests ... that the very high alcohol consumption, together with the habit of binge-drinking, may be resulting in a very large number of circulatory deaths in middle age," according to the report.

The team led by David Leon of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine worked with staff from the Center of Demography and Human Ecology in Moscow. The report was based on an overall analysis of statistics between 1984 and 1994.

It said average life expectancy at birth for Russian men fell from 63.8 years in 1990 to 57.6 years in 1994 and for woman from 74.4 years to 71 years. "The magnitude and steepness of the fluctuations in mortality rates and life expectancy for Russia are without parallel in the modern era."