Russia has a significant life expectancy gap between men and women; one of the key reasons why Russian men die earlier is excessive consumption of alcohol, particularly vodka.
In recent decades, however, vodka has become less popular among younger Russians who now tend to prefer beer.
Between 2000 and 2009, the average male life expectancy in Russia stood at 60 years; 15 years less than in the U.S., seven years less than in Bangladesh, and four years less than in North Korea. Russia also has the biggest difference in life expectancy between men and women – the latter outlive men by 13 years on average (data for the same period of 2000 to 2009). In the three countries featured here for comparison, male and female life expectancies are much closer, the difference being seven years in the U.S. and North Korea and just one year in Bangladesh.
It is well known that alcohol consumption contributes significantly to male mortality in Russia: according to research, some 40% of all deaths each year are associated with alcohol, not just the fatal health consequences of alcoholism such as alcohol poisoning, liver cirrhosis, etc., which account for just 7% of all deaths; in addition, more than 30% of deaths are caused by road accidents, violent crimes and other occurrences resulting from alcohol consumption.
However, Yakovlev and Kueng expect male deaths from alcohol to decline in Russia, due to changes in alcohol consumption patterns over the past few decades. While the choice of alcoholic beverages, including samogon and other home brews, was extremely limited in the USSR and particularly during Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign, since then the situation has changed dramatically and multiple varieties of elite alcohol, wine and beer have become available, replacing vodka as the alcoholic drink of choice.
Traditionally, vodka is considered more dangerous than beer, and not only because it can be of questionable quality. Studies show that alcohol poisoning usually results from excessive consumption rather than poor quality of alcohol, and that vodka lovers are more likely to drink excessively.
Thus, men who prefer beer have a lower risk of dying – a hypothesis confirmed by regression analysis, according to Yakovlev, who notes higher mortality rates in vodka consumers of the same age.
The researchers conclude, optimistically, that even if the current alcohol prices and alcohol-related policies remain the same, male mortality in Russia may decrease by a third over the next two decades as vodka continues to lose popularity.