Health and Social Change in Russia and Eastern Europe

By William C. Cockerham | Go to book overview
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Chapter 5

Russia: The Current Health Crisis

The most severe rise in peacetime mortality in a developed nation in modern times has taken place in Russia. The purpose of this chapter is to determine whether or not the nation’s health crisis has passed, and to examine the contributions of policy, societal stress, and health lifestyles to the current situation.


The research reviewed in previous chapters shows that the decline in life expectancy in the former Soviet Union began in the mid-1960s and was primarily fueled by rising mortality among middle-aged men with working-class backgrounds. This appears to still be the case, although the most recent data on life expectancy show a slight increase for males in 1995 and 1996, and for females in 1996. Does this mean the health crisis has passed and Russia is returning to a consistent upward trend in life expectancy? First, it needs to be realized that Russia’s devastating demographic problems have not come to an end. Russia’s mortality rate in 1994 was 15.7 deaths per 1,000 persons; the rate improved in 1995 to 15 deaths per 1,000, but this still is one of the highest mortality rates in Europe and Asia. Furthermore, the birth rate has declined from 23.2 births per 1,000 persons in 1960 to 9.3 per 1,000 in 1995. Overall,

This chapter was written with the assistance of Vladimir M. Shkolnikov, Ph.D., Head, Laboratory for Analysis and Prognosis of Mortality, Center of Demography and Human Ecology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow.


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