Russian men who down large amounts of vodka—and too many do—have an "extraordinarily" high risk of an early death, a new study says. Researchers who tracked about 151,000 Russian men from 1999 to 2010 found that the risk of dying before age 55 for those who said they drank three or more half-liter bottles of vodka a week was a shocking 35%. Overall, a quarter of Russian men die before reaching 55, compared with 7% of men in the UK and less than 1% in the United States.
"Russians clearly drink a lot, but it's this pattern of getting really smashed on vodka and then continuing to drink that is dangerous," the lead researcher says. "The rate of men dying prematurely in Russia is totally out of line with the rest of Europe." Another expert says changing drinking patterns to combat the problem would require a major cultural adjustment. "It's not considered out-of-order to drink until you can't function in Russia," he says. "It just seems to be part of being a guy in Russia that you are expected to drink heavily." (Read more vodka stories.)