No one downs vodka like Russia does.
The Russians drink some 17.3 shots of vodka per month on average, according to data from Euromonitor. That’s easily the most in the world. The Polish, the second biggest vodka drinkers in Euromonitor’s sample, throw back about 13.7 shots per month; while Ukrainians drink roughly 10 shots per month. Americans come in at only 3.8.
But while some visitors to the Sochi Olympics have joked about the country’s love of vodka, the Russian penchant for heavy drinking is becoming a major health concern. A recent study (pdf) published in The Lancet found that heavy vodka consumption in Russia is alarmingly tied to early deaths. And Russia—its men especially—is plagued by early deaths. Over 25% of men die before the age of 55, and about 20% of all deaths amongst Russian men are due to alcohol-related causes. “High mortality [in Russia] absolutely is caused by hazardous alcohol consumption,” Dr. David Zaridze, one of the study’s authors, told NPR.
While it’s tempting to draw parallels between cold weather and liquor consumption, the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand, said Spiros Malandrakis, an industry analyst at Euromonitor. “There’s actually no correlation between spirits consumption and weather patterns,” Malandrakis told Quartz.
High vodka consumption is deeply ingrained in Russian culture—and it has been for centuries. At one point, a third of the Kremlin’s imperial budget came from vodka. So perhaps it’s not surprising then that the only two countries that come anywhere near Russia’s world-leading vodka intake were at one point under Soviet rule.
Note about the data: The shots measurement we used is equivalent to 1.5 fluid ounces. Euromonitor provided per capita data in liters, which we converted to ounces and then shots.