Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Alcohol consumption and increased mortality in Russian men and women: a cohort study based on the mortality of relatives

Amanda Nicholson, Martin Bobak, Michael Murphy, Richard Rose, & Michael Marmot



To examine the relations between frequency of alcohol consumption and of binge drinking and adult mortality in Russian men and women.


Using modified indirect demographic techniques, a convenience cohort was constructed based on survey respondents’ information about their close relatives. A random sample general population of the Russian Federation of 7172 respondents (response rate 61%) provided information on 10 475 male and 3129 female relatives, including age, vital status, and frequency of alcohol consumption and binge drinking. These relatives formed the cohort analysed in this report. The outcome measure was all-cause mortality after the age of 30 years.


There was a strong linear relation between frequency of drinking and of binge drinking and all-cause mortality in men; after controlling for smoking and calendar period of birth, the relative risk of death in daily drinkers compared to occasional drinkers was 1.52 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.33–1.75). Male binge drinkers had higher mortality than drinkers who did not binge, which persisted after adjustment for drinking frequency (adjusted relative risk 1.09, 95% CI 1.00–1.19). In women, the increased mortality was confined to a small group of those who binged at least once a month (adjusted relative risk 2.68, 95% CI 1.54–4.66).


The results suggest a positive association between alcohol and mortality in the Russian Federation. There was no evidence for the protective effect of drinking seen in western populations. Alcohol appears to have contributed to the high long-term mortality rates in Russian men, but it is unlikely to be a major cause of female mortality.