Russian Health and Mortality

Topics: Russia, Health care, Health economics Pages: 11 (3277 words) Published: August 4, 2013
SA4D2- Health and Population in Developing and Transitional Societies Unassessed Essay
What are the main causes of the health and mortality crisis in Russia? Can alcohol consumption count for this crisis?

Russia is facing an enormous demographic crisis with respect to the health status in the country, and increasing mortality rates. This constitutes one of the most important global public health concerns after the HIV-AIDS pandemic in Sub-Saharan Africa. (http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/35/6/1406). Over the past two decades, Russia has experienced unprecedented increases in mortality “for an industrialised nation at peace”(RAND, population policy, 2001). Different aspects of socioeconomic change are associated with the increases in mortality. Alcohol plays a significant role in increasing “mortality and the global burden of disease”(Oxford Analytica, Forbes.com, July 2009). In Russia, the greatest contributions to increasing rates of mortality in both sexes occurring during age 30-60 were “from conditions directly or indirectly associated with heavy alcohol consumption”(Walberg et al, BMJ, August 1998). http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/317/7154/312#609 This essay will briefly outline the historical context of health and INFANT AND ADULT mortality in Russia, followed by an analysis of the main determinants of this health crisis. The role of alcohol consumption as a mechanism for increasing mortality will be examined in particular. The essay will primarily focus on Russian mortality post the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In the last few decades, Russia has experienced dramatic fluctuations in mortality. Life expectancy began to decrease in 1965, initially “regarded as a minor and transient fluctuation of little significance”(Schkolnikov and Leon, International Journal of Epidemiology, 2006). Russian govt restricted mortality data.. ceased publication

In 1991 and article by Nick Eberstadt published in The New York Review “provided an extraordinarily accurate (multi-factorial) account” (Shkolnikov and Leon, International Journal of Epidemiology, 2006) of the Russian health crisis and plausible reasons behind it.

Gorbachev launched a nationwide anti-alcohol campaign in 1985 that lasted two years. In 1986-87, overall Russian mortality “reached a post-World War II low” (Forbes article) before starting on an upward trend once more. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, mortality began to increase very quickly. The mortality rate peaked in 1994 followed by a short-lived decline, peaking again in 1998 in response to the Russian currency crisis. In the last decade there has been some stabilisation in mortality rates, although they “remain far above those in Western Europe”(Forbes). In 2000, the probability of death prior to reaching age 55 for a 35-year old male was 27% in Russia compared to 6% in Western Europe (Forbes- find where statistic is from).

A Stanford University study advocates that the mortality crisis is not attributable to economic transition, but moreover to the effects of alcohol, citing.. http://healthpolicy.stanford.edu/news/the_russian_mortality_crisis_a_case_of_economic_transition_or_an_antialcohol_campaign_gone_wrong_20080922/

In the 1950s, the USSR’s economy was the fastest growing economy globally, growing twice as fast as the US, and great improvements were made in health namely in the battle against infectious disease and infant mortality. (CITATION!). There was growing optimism and confidence in sustained improvements in life expectancy, particularly as mortality trends in industrialised countries had been “remarkably resilient” during major events such as the Great Depression. However, in the mid-1960s, the trend in life expectancy came to a halt.

In more recent times, even though Russian Gross National Income (GNI) per capita growth is strong, average life expectancy has only increased marginally to 67.88 years in 2008, barely reaching 1961 levels....

References: See Vladimir G. Treml, ‘Alcoholism and State Policy in the Soviet
Union’, in Zbigniew M. Fallenbuchl, ed., Economic Development in the
Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, vol. W (Praeger, 1976).
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