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Taste for vodka shortens Russian life

Russians can buy vodka at street kiosks in Moscow. A quarter of Russian men die before reaching age 55.

Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

Russians can buy vodka at street kiosks in Moscow. A quarter of Russian men die before reaching age 55.

LONDON — Russian men who down large amounts of vodka, and many do, have an extraordinarily high risk of an early death, a new study says.

Researchers tracked about 151,000 adult men in Barnaul, Byisk, and Tomsk from 1999 to 2010. They interviewed them about their drinking habits and, when about 8,000 later died, followed up to monitor their causes of death.

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The risk of dying before 55 for those who said they drank three or more half-liters of vodka a week was 35 percent.

Overall, a quarter of Russian men die before reaching 55, compared with 7 percent of men in the United Kingdom and about 10 percent of men in the United States. The life expectancy for men in Russia is 64 years — placing it among the lowest 50 countries.

It is not clear how many Russian men drink three bottles or more a week. Richard Peto of Oxford University said the average Russian drinks 20 liters of vodka per year while the average Briton drinks about three liters of spirits.

‘‘Russians clearly drink a lot, but it’s this pattern of getting really smashed on vodka and then continuing to drink that is dangerous,’’ Peto said.

‘‘The rate of men dying prematurely in Russia is totally out of line with the rest of Europe,’’ he said.

Correction: Because of an error by the AP, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the percentage of US men dying prematurely before age 55. The rate is about 10 percent.

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