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Suicides Drop In Russia, But Rates Remain High Because Of Alcohol Abuse, Data Shows

Suicides in Russia have fallen for the 14th consecutive year, according to the Russian government.

In 2015 there were 24,982 suicides in Russia, a drop of about 6.2 percent from to 2014, Russia Beyond The Headlines reported on Feb. 16. The Russian government says it's the lowest suicide total in 50 years, although record-keeping was not complete during the Soviet Era.

More than 30 percent of all deaths in Russia are alcohol related, including alcohol poisoning, liver failure, accidents and suicide, World Health Organization data shows.

Despite that, the Russian government touted the drop in suicides compared to the country's historically high rates. In 2012, public health advocates urged the country to adopt public safety campaigns against suicide, the Daily Mail reported, noting that almost a million Russians killed themselves since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

While the country's economic woes and shaky transition to capitalism were cited as factors in the post-Soviet rash of suicides, a 2006 National Institutes of Health study pointed to alcohol consumption as another major contributor to the problem:

Russian levels of alcohol consumption and suicide are among the highest in the world. While observers have long suspected an association between the two, they were unable to investigate this hypothesis until recently due to past Soviet secrecy and thus a lack of data. This study took advantage of the newly available data during the post-Soviet era to examine the cross-sectional association between heavy drinking and suicide mortality in Russia.

The data showed it wasn't just how much Russians were drinking, but what they were drinking. While Russia has one of the highest alcohol consumption rates in the world, the problem was compounded by the country's historical preference for spirits, rather than other countries where wine and beer are more popular, according to the NIH study.

"These results not only confirmed an association between heavy drinking and suicide in Russia, but when compared to findings from previous studies of other countries they led to the hypothesis that a nation’s beverage preference may be as important as its wet/dry drinking culture in its sensitivity of suicide rates to alcohol consumption."

Sources: Russia Beyond the Headlines, Daily Mail, National Institutes of Health / Photo credit: The Drinks Business

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