Homicide and Alcohol Intoxication in Russia, 1956-2005

Article excerpt

Summary - The association between alcohol and various forms of aggression and lethal violence is well documented. There is growing evidence that binge drinking pattern increases the propensity for the alcohol-related violence. The purpose of this study was to estimate the aggregate level effect of binge drinking on the homicide rate in drinking culture, which combine a higher level alcohol consumption per capita with the explosive drinking pattern. Trends in age-adjusted, sex-specific homicide and fatal alcohol poisoning mortality rates from 1956 to 2005 in Russia were analyzed using the ARIMA time series analysis. The results of the time series analysis suggest a close relationship between homicide and the fatal alcohol poisoning trends. In Conclusion, this study supports the hypothesis that homicide and alcohol are closely connected in cultures where an intoxication-oriented drinking pattern prevails and suggests that a binge drinking pattern is important in explaining the high rate of homicide in Russia.

Key words: Homicide, Fatal alcohol poisoning, ARIMA time series analysis, Russia, 1956-2005.

INTRODUCTION

Research evidence suggests a close link between the alcohol consumption and various forms of aggression and lethal violence. 2,8 The strong support for a direct link between drinking and lethal violence comes from the aggregate-level data. Both longitudinal and cross-sectional aggregate-level studies usually report a significant and positive association between the total alcohol consumption and homicide rates.7,14,16 However, there is tremendous variation between nations in the alcohol-homicide association. A time series analysis of the annual aggregate level data on alcohol sales and homicide rates for the period 1950-1995 covering fourteen European Union countries revealed a positive and statistically significant relationship between the total alcohol sales and homicide rate in five countries. When estimates were pooled across countries, the strongest association between alcohol sales and homicides was found in the northern European countries, which combine traditions of temperance movement with the explosive drinking pattern, or "dry" drinking cultures, and weakest in the southern European wine countries, or "wet" drinking cultures.24 These findings suggest an important role of cultural and social context in the alcohol-homicide association and support the hypothesis that homicide and alcohol are more closely connected in the countries where the drinking culture is characterized by heavy drinking episodes.

The homicide rate in Russia is among the highest in the world.26 This phenomenon has attracted much attention in recent years.13,16 Alcohol continues to play an important role in higher homicide mortality rate in Russia. The official crime data have suggested that about three quarters of all intentional homicide offenders and about 40 per cent of all victims are under the influence of alcohol at the time of the offence.11 Many scholars agree that alcohol played an important role in the fluctuation of Russian violent mortality rate during the last decades.19,21,27 Several studies highlighted a significant aggregate level time series association between alcohol and homicide in Russia.13,16 The findings from recent studies suggest that alcohol consumption was an important factor in regional variations of homicide rate in Russia in early twentieth century.28 Similarly, a close cross-sectional link was been shown between alcohol and homicide in Russian regions during the mid-nineties.16 While the exact nature of the relationship between alcohol and homicide remains uncertain, several potential explanations that may be particularly relevant in Russian context have been suggested by Pridemore.20

He has argued that the social and cultural contextual effects of drinking may be responsible for the association between alcohol and interpersonal violence in the country. For example, the less developed bar scene in Russia results in more drinking occurring in private settings, thereby leading to decreased formal social control by police. …