The Changing Relation between Alcohol and Life Expectancy in Russia

Inna Danilova , Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR)
Vladimir M. Shkolnikov, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Evgeny Andreev, National Research University Higher School of Economics
David A. Leon, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

In the 1990s a strong inverse relationship between life expectancy (LE) in Russia and mortality from alcohol poisoning was observed. This association is remarkable as this cause accounts for less than 2% of deaths each year. The most plausible explanation for this is that the annual rate of alcohol poisoning in Russia can be regarded as the best single measure of the population prevalence of hazardous drinking which is in turn associated with mortality from a wide range of causes. This study provides the detailed analysis of the evolving relationship of LE with this mortality-based measure of heavy drinking since 1965 including the most recent period of continuous LE improvement in Russia. We examine three periods: 1965-1984 – the period of a gradual LE decline; 1984-2003 – the period of massive LE fluctuations that began with the anti-alcohol campaign; and 2003-2017 - the current period of mortality improvement. Pearson’s correlation coefficients and a linear relationship between annual changes in LE and alcohol poisoning were estimated for each period. The strongest negative correlation between changes in LE and alcohol poisonings was found in the period of sharp LE fluctuations (1984-2003) and was weaker before and after this period. In the period 2003-17, the linear model describing the relationship between changes in LE and mortality from alcohol poisonings has altered: a consistent positive LE trend emerged that was independent of alcohol poisoning. We interpret this as an indication of a new component of LE increase that is independent of hazardous drinking.

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 Presented in Session 20. National Trends in Life Expectancy and Mortality