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      Alcohol and cause-specific mortality in Russia: a retrospective case–control study of 48 557 adult deaths


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          Alcohol is an important determinant of the high and fluctuating adult mortality rates in Russia, but cause-specific detail is lacking. Our case–control study investigated the effects of alcohol consumption on male and female cause-specific mortality.


          In three Russian industrial cities with typical 1990s mortality patterns (Tomsk, Barnaul, Biysk), the addresses of 60 416 residents who had died at ages 15–74 years in 1990–2001 were visited in 2001–05. Family members were present for 50 066 decedents; for 48 557 (97%), the family gave proxy information on the decedents' past alcohol use and on potentially confounding factors. Cases (n=43 082) were those certified as dying from causes we judged beforehand might be substantially affected by alcohol or tobacco; controls were the other 5475 decedents. Case versus control relative risks (RRs; calculated as odds ratios by confounder-adjusted logistic regression) were calculated in ever-drinkers, defining the reference category by two criteria: usual weekly consumption always less than 0·5 half-litre bottles of vodka (or equivalent in total alcohol content) and maximum consumption of spirits in 1 day always less than 0·5 half-litre bottles. Other ever-drinkers were classified by usual weekly consumption into three categories: less than one, one to less than three, and three or more (mean 5·4 [SD 1·4]) bottles of vodka or equivalent.


          In men, the three causes accounting for the most alcohol-associated deaths were accidents and violence (RR 5·94, 95% CI 5·35–6·59, in the highest consumption category), alcohol poisoning (21·68, 17·94–26·20), and acute ischaemic heart disease other than myocardial infarction (3·04, 2·73–3·39), which includes some misclassified alcohol poisoning. There were significant excesses of upper aerodigestive tract cancer (3·48, 2·84–4·27) and liver cancer (2·11, 1·64–2·70). Another five disease groups had RRs of more than 3·00 in the highest alcohol category: tuberculosis (4·14, 3·44–4·98), pneumonia (3·29, 2·83–3·83), liver disease (6·21, 5·16–7·47), pancreatic disease (6·69, 4·98–9·00), and ill-specified conditions (7·74, 6·48–9·25). Although drinking was less common in women, the RRs associated with it were generally more extreme. After correction for reporting errors, alcohol-associated excesses accounted for 52% of all study deaths at ages 15–54 years (men 8182 [59%] of 13968, women 1565 [33%] of 4751) and 18% of those at 55–74 years (men 3944 [22%] of 17 536, women 1493 [12%] of 12 302). Allowance for under-representation of extreme drinkers would further increase alcohol-associated proportions. Large fluctuations in mortality from these ten strongly alcohol-associated causes were the main determinants of recent fluctuations in overall mortality in the study region and in Russia as a whole.


          Alcohol-attributable mortality varies by year; in several recent years, alcohol was a cause of more than half of all Russian deaths at ages 15–54 years. Alcohol accounts for most of the large fluctuations in Russian mortality, and alcohol and tobacco account for the large difference in adult mortality between Russia and western Europe.


          UK Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation, International Agency for Research on Cancer, and European Commission Directorate-General for Research.

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          The relationship of average volume of alcohol consumption and patterns of drinking to burden of disease: an overview.

          As part of a larger study to estimate the global burden of disease attributable to alcohol: to quantify the relationships between average volume of alcohol consumption, patterns of drinking and disease and injury outcomes, and to combine exposure and risk estimates to determine regional and global alcohol-attributable fractions (AAFs) for major disease and injury categories. DESIGN, METHODS, SETTING: Systematic literature reviews were used to select diseases related to alcohol consumption. Meta-analyses of the relationship between alcohol consumption and disease and multi-level analyses of aggregate data to fill alcohol-disease relationships not currently covered by individual-level data were used to determine the risk relationships between alcohol and disease. AAFs were estimated as a function of prevalence of exposure and relative risk, or from combining the aggregate multi-level analyses with prevalence data. Average volume of alcohol consumption was found to increase risk for the following major chronic diseases: mouth and oropharyngeal cancer; oesophageal cancer; liver cancer; breast cancer; unipolar major depression; epilepsy; alcohol use disorders; hypertensive disease; hemorrhagic stroke; and cirrhosis of the liver. Coronary heart disease (CHD), unintentional and intentional injuries were found to depend on patterns of drinking in addition to average volume of alcohol consumption. Most effects of alcohol on disease were detrimental, but for certain patterns of drinking, a beneficial influence on CHD, stroke and diabetes mellitus was observed. Alcohol is related to many major disease outcomes, mainly in a detrimental fashion. While average volume of consumption was related to all disease and injury categories under consideration, pattern of drinking was found to be an additional influencing factor for CHD and injury. The influence of patterns of drinking may be underestimated because pattern measures have not been included in many epidemiologic studies. Generalizability of the results is limited by methodological problems of the underlying studies used in the present analyses. Future studies need to address these methodological issues in order to obtain more accurate risk estimates.
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            Huge variation in Russian mortality rates 1984-94: artefact, alcohol, or what?

            According to published data, between 1984 and 1994 mortality rates in Russia initially underwent a rapid decline followed by an even steeper increase. In 1994, male life expectancy at birth was 57.6 years, having fallen by 6.2 years since 1990. There has been concern that such striking fluctuations in mortality are an artefact, although, among other factors, alcohol consumption has been implicated. We analysed the age-specific and cause-specific patterns of mortality decrease and increase by use of data from a newly reconstructed mortality series for Russia so that we could examine the plausibility of various explanations for the mortality trends. All major causes of death, with the exception of neoplasms, showed declines in mortality between 1984 and 1987 and increases between 1987 and 1994. In relative terms, these tended to be largest for the age-group 40-50 years; surprisingly, they were of the same magnitude among women and men. The largest declines and subsequent increases in proportional terms were observed for alcohol-related deaths and accidents and violence. However, pronounced effects were also seen for deaths from infections, circulatory disease, and respiratory disease. No substantial variations were seen for neoplasms. The stability of mortality from neoplasms in contrast to other causes over the period 1984-94 largely precludes the possibility that the changes in life expectancy are mainly an artefact, particularly one due to underestimation of the population. Although factors such as nutrition and health services may be involved, the evidence is that substantial changes in alcohol consumption over the period could plausibly explain the main features of the mortality fluctuations observed. These results provide a major challenge to public health in Russia and to our understanding of the determinants of alcohol consumption and its role in explaining mortality patterns within and between many other countries.
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              Mortality from tobacco in developed countries: indirect estimation from national vital statistics.

              Prolonged cigarette smoking causes even more deaths from other diseases than from lung cancer. In developed countries, the absolute age-sex-specific lung cancer rates can be used to indicate the approximate proportions due to tobacco of deaths not only from lung cancer itself but also, indirectly, from vascular disease and from various other categories of disease. Even in the absence of direct information on smoking histories, therefore, national mortality from tobacco can be estimated approximately just from the disease mortality statistics that are available from all major developed countries for about 1985 (and for 1975 and so, by extrapolation, for 1995). The relation between the absolute excess of lung cancer and the proportional excess of other diseases can only be approximate, and so as not to overestimate the effects of tobacco it has been taken to be only half that suggested by a recent large prospective study of smoking and death among one million Americans. Application of such methods indicates that, in developed countries alone, annual deaths from smoking number about 0.9 million in 1965, 1.3 million in 1975, 1.7 million in 1985, and 2.1 million in 1995 (and hence about 21 million in the decade 1990-99: 5-6 million European Community, 5-6 million USA, 5 million former USSR, 3 million Eastern and other Europe, and 2 million elsewhere, [ie, Australia, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand]). More than half these deaths will be at 35-69 years of age: during the 1990s tobacco will in developed countries cause about 30% of all deaths at 35-69 (making it the largest single cause of premature death) plus about 14% of all at older ages. Those killed at older ages are on average already almost 80 years old, however, and might have died soon anyway, but those killed by tobacco at 35-69 lose an average of about 23 years of life. At present just under 20% of all deaths in developed countries are attributed to tobacco, but this percentage is still rising, suggesting that on current smoking patterns just over 20% of those now living in developed countries will eventually be killed by tobacco (ie, about a quarter of a billion, out of a current total population of just under one and a quarter billion).

                Author and article information

                Lancet Publishing Group
                27 June 2009
                27 June 2009
                : 373
                : 9682
                : 2201-2214
                [a ]Russian Cancer Research Centre, Moscow, Russia
                [b ]International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France
                [c ]Clinical Trial Service Unit and Epidemiological Studies Unit (CTSU), University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
                [d ]Institute of Cardiology, Tomsk Research Centre, Tomsk, Russia
                [e ]Altai Branch of Russian Cancer Research Centre, Barnaul, Russia
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence to: Prof David Zaridze, Department of Epidemiology and Prevention, N N Blokhin Russian Cancer Research Centre, Kashirskoye Shosse 24, 115478 Moscow, Russia dgzaridze@ 123456crc.umos.ru
                [** ]Correspondence to: Prof Sir Richard Peto, CTSU, Richard Doll Building, Old Road Campus, Oxford OX3 7LF, UK secretary@ 123456ctsu.ox.ac.uk
                © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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