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Russia's crackdown on alcohol abuse sees life expectancy soar

Restrictions on the sale of alcohol in Russia have seen life expectancy surge. Credit: AP

Russia's love affair with booze appears to be cooling, new evidence suggests.

A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) says alcohol consumption has fallen by some 43% since 2003.

The startling reversal has been driven by a series of alcohol-control measures introduced since the mid-2000s that include a crackdown on illegal home-brewed booze, raising the minimum price for vodka and other spirits, and substantially restricting sales.

As a result, the number of people dying from abusing booze and from accidents related to drinking have fallen dramatically.

Life expectancy among men fell to 57 years of age, owing largely to alcohol abuse. Credit: PA

Life expectancy in men dropped by more than six years between 1990 and 1994, reaching its absolute low of 57 years in the recent history of what is now the Russian Federation.

However, life expectancy started to climb in 2003 and reached its historic peak in 2018 – almost 68 years for men and 78 years for women.

The biggest gains were observed in men: their life expectancy increased by more than nine years between 2003 and 2018, while female life expectancy increased by six years

How alcohol consumption has fallen since 2005. Credit: WHO

The WHO said the Russian Federation "has long been considered one of the heaviest-drinking countries in the world".

The report says: "Its hazardous drinking patterns are associated with some of the highest levels of alcohol-attributable mortality and harm."

Research has suggested that one in every two men of working age would die prematurely because of alcohol.

The WHO says that despite the considerable progress, evidence suggests it has stalled over the past few years.

"Better enforcement of existing measures is urgently needed," it says, "alongside further implementation of appropriate measures to reduce and eliminate the various illegal and semi-legal markets of unrecorded alcohol in the Russian Federation through appropriate taxation or denaturing of the products concerned."