Comparing Alcohol Mortality in Tsarist and Contemporary Russia: Is the Current Situation Historically Unique?
Aims: This study compared the level of alcohol mortality in tsarist and contemporary Russia. Methods: Cross-sectional and annual time-series data from 1870 to 1894, 2008 and 2009 on the mortality rate from deaths due to ‘drunkenness’ were compared for men in the 50 provinces of tsarist ‘European Russia’: an area that today corresponds with the territory occupied by the Baltic countries, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine and the Russian provinces to the west of the Ural Mountains. Results: In 1870–1894, the male death rate from ‘drunkenness’ in the Russian provinces (15.9 per 100,000) was much higher than in the non-Russian provinces. However, the rate recorded in Russia in the contemporary period was even higher—23.3. Conclusions: Russia has had high levels of alcohol mortality from at least the late 19th century onwards. While a dangerous drinking pattern and spirits consumption may underpin high alcohol mortality across time, the seemingly much higher levels in the contemporary period seem to be also driven by an unprecedented level of consumption, and also possibly, surrogate alcohol use. This study highlights the urgent need to reduce the level of alcohol consumption among the population in order to reduce high levels of alcohol mortality in contemporary Russia.