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Russians drinking less means longer life expectancy

By REN QI in Moscow | China Daily | Updated: 2020-02-17 09:27

Reducing alcohol consumption has helped Russians improve their life expectancy, a World Health Organization reported has indicated.

The amount of alcohol consumed per person in the country fell by 43 percent from 2003 to 2016, the report says.

Legend has it that the first Russian vodka was produced by a monk named Isidore in 1430.This "bread wine", as it was known, was first produced exclusively in the Grand Duchy of Moscow. It remained fairly low in alcohol content, below 40 percent, until the mid-18th century.

Russia has long been considered as having one of the world's biggest alcohol intakes, and the report describes drinking patterns as "hazardous" and says they are associated with the high levels of alcohol-related deaths.

By the 1860s state-manufactured vodka was the common choice of drink for many Russians. In 1863 the government monopoly on making vodka was ditched, bringing prices down and making vodka available even to the poorest, and it accounted for 89 percent of all alcohol consumed by Russians by 1911.

The worst period in recent times came during the 1990s and 2000s, when, according to research, one in every two men of working age died prematurely because of alcohol abuse.

In 2012 Russia drank 1.37 billion liters of the spirit, making the country the world's biggest vodka market and its people experts in the art of its consumption.

"Russians drink Russian vodka in a Russian way," said Andrey Rublev, 42, of Moscow.

Rublev, who described himself as a "senior vodka drinker", said that according to tradition vodka should be served directly from the fridge or freezer with no ice.

Because of the famous Russian Dmitry Mendeleev, who formulated the Periodic Law, real vodka's alcohol content should be between 37 percent and 40 percent, Rublev said.

"Russians were all told the story of Mendeleev when we were young boys, that Mendeleev defined the best alcohol content to be 40 percent. Because only at this alcohol content level is the vodka both delicious and healthy."

Short life span

But researchers disagree with Mendeleev, seeing alcohol as perhaps the main reason for Russia's life span being so short.

Maria Neufeld, a researcher at the Moscow Research Institute of Psychiatry, said alcohol is a main contributor to Russian mortality.

"However, in recent years these trends have been reversed," the report said.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has introduced measures to encourage Russians to pursue healthier lifestyles. The measures include raising alcohol tax and vodka prices, banning off-premises alcohol sales after 11 pm, introducing an alcohol marketing blackout and restricting the availability of alcohol in some regions.

Researchers say the measures taken have resulted in a higher life expectancy, 68 years for men and 78 years for women in 2018.In the early 1990s males had a life expectancy of just 57 years.



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