Alcohol consumption in Russia stays among the highest in the world. According to the WHO 2011 report, annual per capita consumption was about 15.76 litres, fourth highest volume in Europe. Another dangerous trait of Russian alcohol consumption pattern was high volume of spirits compared to other consumed alcohol drinks.
Russia currently implements a variety of anti-alcoholism measures (banning spirits and beer trade at night, raising taxes, and others). According to medicine officials, these policies result in a considerable fall of alcohol consumption volumes, to 13.5 litres by 2013, and wine and beer taking over spirits as the main source of consumed alcohol. These levels are more comparable with European Union averages. Alcohol producers claim falling legal drinks consumption is accompanied by growth of sales of illegally produced drinks.
High volumes of alcohol consumption have serious negative effects on Russia’s social fabric and in its political, economic and public health ramifications. Alcoholism has been a problem throughout the country’s history because drinking is a pervasive, socially acceptable behavior in Russian society. It has also been a major source of government revenue for centuries. It has repeatedly been targeted as a major national problem, with mixed results.
A study by Russian, British and French researchers published in The Lancet scrutinized deaths between 1990 and 2001 of residents of three Siberian industrial towns with typical mortality rates and determined that 52% of deaths of people between the ages of 15 and 54 were the result of alcohol abuse. Lead researcher Professor David Zaridze estimated that the increase in alcohol consumption since 1987 has caused an additional three million deaths nationwide.
In 2007, Gennadi Onishenko, the country’s chief public health official, voiced his concern over the nearly threefold rise in alcohol consumption over the past 16 years; one in eight deaths was attributed to alcohol-related diseases, playing a major role in Russia’s population decline. Men are particularly hit hard: according to a U.N. National Human Development Report, Russian males born in 2006 had a life expectancy of just over 60 years, or 17 years fewer than western Europeans, while Russian females could expect to live 13 years longer than their male counterparts.
In June 2009, the Public Chamber of Russia reported over 500,000 alcohol-related deaths annually, noting that Russians consume about 18 litres (4.0 imp gal; 4.8 US gal) of spirits a year, more than double the 8 litres (1.8 imp gal; 2.1 US gal) that World Health Organization experts consider dangerous.
In the early 1980s, an estimated “two-thirds of murders and violent crimes were committed by intoxicated persons; and drunk drivers were responsible for 14,000 traffic deaths and 60,000 serious traffic injuries”. In 1995, about three quarters of those arrested for homicide were under the influence of alcohol, and 29% of respondents reported that children beaten within families were the victims of drunks and alcoholics.
A 1997 report published in the Journal of Family Violence, found that among male perpetrators of spousal homicide, 60–75% of offenders had been drinking prior to the incident.