Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Mortality among Working-Age Russians Now 50 Percent Higher than in 1960

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 24 – While average life expectancies among Russians have rebounded in recent years, largely because of improved infant and child morality figures, death rates among working-age Russians have risen and  now are 50 percent greater than they were a half century ago, according to Moscow report today.

            In an article in “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” Ada Gorbacheva, a commentator for that paper, says that Rosstat says that in 1960, 250,674 residents of the RSFSR did not live long enough to receive their pensions. In 1987, deaths among working age adults had risen to 363, 205; in 1997, it rose to 705,542 (ng.ru/health/2014-06-24/8_deathrate.html).

            In 2005, this measure reached its highest level – with 739,905 working-age adults dying before reaching pension age. In 2012, that number had fallen to 496,312, an improvement but a figure that was still one and a  half times larger than the figure for more than a half century earlier.

            Under Gorbachev, the commentator says, working-age mortality fell both because of the impact of his anti-alcohol campaign and because these were years of hope.  But by 1994, when popular disappointment had increased so too did working-age mortality.

            In 2013, she continues, “more than 450,000” Russian adults died before reaching pension age, “almost 50,000” being people in their 20s, 94,000 in their 30s, and 124,000 in their 40s.  And this despite the absence of wars or epidemics. Moreover, Gorbacheva notes, the death rate for working age adults in Belarus is 22 percent less than in the Russian Federation.

            Among the causes, she says, are circulatory diseases, cancer, alcoholism, accidents, suicides and murders. With regard to the first of these, the number of deaths among men exceeds the number of deaths among women by a factor of five, largely because of smoking, alcohol consumption and inadequate diet.

            Unfortunately, Russian women are beginning to suffer from alcoholism in ever greater numbers. According to Rosstat, five million people misuse alcohol on a weekly basis, and more frequently three million more do so. As a result, 7,000 working-age men and 4,000 working-age women die from cirrhosis of the liver each year.

            A Levada Center survey found that 20 percent of working-age Russians smoke a pack of cigarettes or more each day. Not surprisingly, 80 percent of those who die from lung cancer had been smokers, including 48,000 working-age men and 23,000 working-age women in 2013 alone.

            The Russian government has restricted tobacco and alcohol sales, but that alone won’t be enough to change the situation, Gorbacheva says.  According to government statistics, “39 percent of Russians are not concerned about their health” and thus are unlikely to change their behavior in ways that will lead to higher survival rates among the working-age population.

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