The study of more than 150,000 people found extraordinarily high premature death rates among Russian men, some of whom reported drinking at least a litre and a half of vodka a week.

Researchers found that 25 percent of Russian men die before they are 55, and most of the deaths are due to alcohol.

The causes of death, according to researchers, include liver disease and alcohol poisoning, while many also die in accidents or by involving in fights.

Scientists from the Russian Cancer Centre in Moscow, Oxford University, UK, and the World Health Organisation International Agency for Research on Cancer, France, tracked drinking patterns in three Russian cities over up to 10 years.

During that time, 8,000 of Russians died. Researchers also analysed previous studies in which families of 49,000 people who had died were asked about their loved ones' drinking habits.

"Russian death rates have fluctuated wildly over the last 30 years as alcohol restrictions and social stability varied under Presidents

Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin, and the main thing driving these wild fluctuations in death was vodka," study co-author Sir Richard Peto, from the University of Oxford, said.

Majority of the drinkers were smokers as well which "aggravated" the death rates, according to the researchers.

Russia brought in stricter alcohol control measures in 2006, including raising taxes and restricting sales. Researchers say alcohol consumption has fallen by a third since then and the proportion of men dying before they reach 55 years old has fallen from 37 to 25 percent.

In the study, heavy drinkers were getting through at least a litre and a half of vodka a week. Researchers say that binge drinking is the key problem driving the high death rate, the report said.

"They binge drink. That's the main problem. It's the pattern of drinking not the per-capita amount they are drinking," Professor David Zaridze, from the Russian Cancer Research Centre, said.

The study was published in The Lancet journal.


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