Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Gap between Male and Female Mortality among Working-Age Russians ‘One of the Largest in the World,’ Demographer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 26 – Like many countries around the world, the Russian Federation has boosted life expectancies almost exclusively by driving down infant mortality, which has the biggest impact on this average. But that resource is almost exhausted, and Moscow faces a problem in achieving additional gains despite the promises Vladimir Putin and others have made.

            That problem is this: mortality rates among working-age Russian men relative to working-age females are “one of the highest in the world,” Moscow demographer Olga Lebedinskaya observes; and addressing them and their sources – inadequate diet, alcoholism, and accidents – will require an effort that will be both difficult and expensive.

            That is just one of the important conclusions Anastasia Bashkatova offers in a Nezavisimaya gazeta article that focuses on what many will see as a paradox: “almost twice as many” Russians per capita are dying each year now than did two generations ago in the 1960s (

            Most of this trend, she and the experts she cites, reflects longer life expectancies and the aging of the population: the share of Russians over the age of 50 has risen from 19 percent in the early 1960s to “ore than 35 percent” now; and among older people, one can entirely reasonably expect the number of deaths to rise.

            That explains most of the increase in deaths per capita Russians have been experiencing but not all and especially not what is going to happen in the future. For that, Bashkatova suggests, one must look more deeply at the super-high mortality rates among working-age males, a group whose death rates in some of the intervening years have even risen. 

For every 1,000 residents of the Russian Federation, “almost twice as many” are dying each year than did in the 1960s, the result of the aging of the population and the continuing and in some years even rising super-high mortality rates among working age males, Russian demographers and officials admit. 

            Longer life expectancies mean that the share of Russians over the age of 50 ha increased from 19 percent in the early 1960s to “more than 35 percent” now, and with an aging population, one can expect more deaths as people become older. That explains most of the increase in deaths per capita in Russia but not all.

            According to Lebedinskaya, 70 percent of the increase in life expectancies in Russia has come from reducing infant mortality, a figure comparable to that in many Western countries. And if the state of health of Russians of older age groups were comparable as well, Russia would not be lagging on this measure of wellbeing.

            Using a standardized coefficient of mortality (which corrects for changes in the age structure of the population), death rates among Russian men fell from 1473 annually per 100,000 population in 1965 to 1436 in 2016. Among Russian women, the comparable figures were 889 and 722. These figures, and especially those for men, are well above European norms.

            But what is even more worrisome, Lebedinskaya says, is that “male super-mortality (the among male morality exceeds female) has significantly risen in Russia” in recent decades “and at the present time, apparently, it is one of the highest in the world.” As a result, there will be a shortage of males in Russia well into the future, another factor depressing demographic growth.

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