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Alcohol and Suicide in Russia, 1870-1894 and 1956-2005: Evidence for the Continuation of a Harmful Drinking Culture Across Time?
Södertörn University, School of Social Sciences, SCOHOST (Stockholm Centre on Health of Societies in Transition).
Södertörn University, School of Social Sciences, SCOHOST (Stockholm Centre on Health of Societies in Transition). Södertörn University, School of Social Sciences, Sociology.
2011 (English)In: Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, ISSN 1937-1888, Vol. 72, no 2, 341-347 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Objective: Previous research suggests that a strong relation exists between alcohol consumption and suicide in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. This study extends this analysis across a much longer historical time frame by examining the relationship between heavy drinking and suicide in tsarist and post-World War 11 Russia. Method: Using alcohol poisoning mortality data as a proxy for heavy drinking, time-series analytical modeling techniques were used to examine the strength of the alcohol-suicide relation in the provinces of European Russia in the period 1870-1894 and for Russia in 1956-2005. Results: During 1870-1894, a decreasing trend was recorded in heavy drinking in Russia that contrasted with the sharp increase observed in this phenomenon in the post-World War 11 period. A rising trend in suicide was recorded in both study periods, although the increase was much greater in the latter period. The strength of the heavy drinking suicide relation nevertheless remained unchanged across time, with a 10% increase in heavy drinking resulting in a 3.5% increase in suicide in tsarist Russia and a 3.8% increase in post-World War II Russia. Conclusions: Despite the innumerable societal changes that have occurred in Russia across the two study periods and the growth in the level of heavy drinking, the strength of the heavy drinking-suicide relation has remained unchanged across time. This suggests the continuation of a highly detrimental drinking culture where the heavy episodic drinking of distilled spirits (vodka) is an essential element in the alcohol-suicide association. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 72, 341-347, 2011)

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. Vol. 72, no 2, 341-347 p.
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-13438ISI: 000288570800018PubMedID: 21388607ScopusID: 2-s2.0-79952935274OAI: diva2:458094
Available from: 2011-11-21 Created: 2011-11-21 Last updated: 2014-02-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Suicide in Russia: A macro-sociological study
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Suicide in Russia: A macro-sociological study
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This work constitutes a macro-sociological study of suicide. The empirical focus is on suicide mortality in Russia, which is among the highest in the world and has, moreover, developed in a dramatic manner over the second half of the 20th century. Suicide mortality in contemporary Russia is here placed within the context of development over a longer time period through empirical studies on 1) the general and sex- and age-specific developments in suicide over the period 1870–2007, 2) underlying dynamics of Russian suicide mortality 1956–2005 pertaining to differences between age groups, time periods, and particular generations and 3) the continuity in the aggregate-level relationship between heavy alcohol consumption and suicide mortality from late Tsarist period to post-World War II Russia. In addition, a fourth study explores an alternative to Émile Durkheim’s dominating macro-sociological perspective on suicide by making use of Niklas Luhmann’s theory of social systems. With the help of Luhmann’s macro-sociological perspective it is possible to consider suicide and its causes also in terms of processes at the individual level (i.e. at the level of psychic systems) in a manner that contrasts with the ‘holistic’ perspective of Durkheim. The results of the empirical studies show that Russian suicide mortality, despite its exceptionally high level and dramatic changes in the contemporary period, shares many similarities with the patterns seen in Western countries when examined over a longer time period. Societal modernization in particular seems to have contributed to the increased rate of suicide in Russia in a manner similar to what happened earlier in Western Europe. In addition, the positive relationship between heavy alcohol consumption and suicide mortality proved to be remarkably stable across the past one and a half centuries. These results were interpreted using the Luhmannian perspective on suicide developed in this work. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2013. 66 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 87Södertörn Doctoral Dissertations, ISSN 1652-7399 ; 76
Suicide, Russia, historical development, time-series analysis, age-period-cohort analysis, Émile Durkheim, Niklas Luhmann
National Category
urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-18696 (URN)978-91-554-8602-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-04-12, IV, Universitetshuset, Biskopsgatan 3, 10:15 (English)
Available from: 2013-04-02 Created: 2013-04-02 Last updated: 2015-03-02Bibliographically approved

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