Analyses of routine data have established that the extreme mortality fluctuations among young and middle-aged men are the most important single component of both temporal changes in Russian life expectancy at birth and in the gap between male and female life expectancy. It is also responsible for the largest share of the life expectancy gap between Russia and other industrialised countries. A case-control study has been used to identify factors associated with mortality among men aged 20 to 55 in the five major cities of the Udmurt Republic in 1998-99. Men dying from external causes and circulatory disease are taken as cases. Matched controls were selected from men of the same age living in the same neighbourhood of residence. Information about characteristics of cases and controls was obtained by interviewing proxies who were family members or friends of the subjects. After exclusion of those deaths for which proxy informant could not be identified, a total of 205 circulatory disease and 333 external cause cases were included together with the same number of controls. Educational level was significantly associated with mortality from circulatory diseases and external causes in a crude analysis. However, this could largely be explained by adjustment for employment, marital status, smoking and alcohol consumption. Smoking was associated with mortality from circulatory disease (crude OR=2.44, 95% CI 1.36-4.36), this effect being slightly attenuated after adjustment for socio-economic factors and alcohol consumption. Unemployment was associated with a large increase in the risk of death from external causes (crude OR=3.63, 95% CI 2.17-6.08), an effect that was still substantial after adjustment for other variables (adjusted OR=2.52, 95% CI 1.43-4.43). A reported history of periods of heavy drinking was linked to both deaths from circulatory disease (crude OR=4.21, 95% CI 2.35-7.55) and external cause mortality (crude OR=2.65, 95% CI 1.69-4.17). Adjustment for other variables reduced the size of these odds ratios, but they remained strikingly large for circulatory disease (adjusted OR=3.54, 95% CI 1.76-7.13) and considerable for external causes (adjusted OR 1.75, 95% CI 1.02-3.00). These may be underestimates of the true effects as nearly all of them increased when employment status (which can in part at least be seen as being on the causal pathway) was excluded from the final model. In summary, however, our key finding is that a history of heavy drinking in the recent past is strongly associated with risk of death from circulatory disease. This provides the first individual-level evidence in support of the hypothesis that episodic heavy drinking is key to explaining the heavy burden of circulatory disease mortality among Russian men of working age
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