NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Heavy drinking, including alcohol-based liquids not meant to be ingested, such as cologne or cleansers, caused nearly half of all deaths among working-age men living in Izhevsk, Russia, between 2003 and 2005, investigators report in The Lancet.
Russia has a low life expectancy, averaging 59 years in men, lead author Dr. David A. Leon and his associates note, but there have been wide fluctuations in death rates over the last two decades.
They examined the contribution of hazardous alcohol consumption to increased male death rates in a study of residents living in Izhevsk, "a typical Russian city of its size" (population 632,000 in 2002), with a population representative of Russia overall.
Men who died between 25 and 54 years of age from, October 2003 to October 2005, were compared with randomly selected living men from the same city. A total of 1,750 men in each group were studied.
After accounting for smoking and education, 43 percent of deaths were attributable to hazardous drinking, report Leon, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and his colleagues. Men who died were much more likely than those who lived to consume products with a high alcohol content but not intended for human consumption.
The authors note that non-beverage alcohol products -- such as cologne, medicinal tinctures, and cleaning agents -- have very high concentrations of alcohol and are up to six times cheaper than vodka.
Eighteen percent of deaths were due to alcohol abuse, and included heart disease, alcoholic liver disease, or acute alcohol poisoning. The consumption of products containing alcohol, but not meant for human consumption, made a large contribution to those deaths.
The findings support the contention that "the sharp fluctuations seen in Russian (deaths) in the early 1990s could be related to hazardous drinking."
In an accompanying commentary, addiction specialists Dr. Jurgen Rehm, from Toronto, and Dr. Gerhard Gmel, from Lausanne, Switzerland, say it is "highly unlikely" that non-beverage alcohol consumption is the underlying mechanism.
Instead, they suggest that non-beverage alcohol consumption is more likely to be a marker for heavy drinking in general.
SOURCE: The Lancet, June 16, 2007.