Health and Social Change in Russia and Eastern Europe

By William C. Cockerham | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Russia: Life Expectancy and Social Change

As the hub of communist power and site of the steepest decline in life expectancy, Russia represents a special situation among the former socialist countries. What happened in Russia is key to understanding what happened throughout the Soviet bloc because the Russian system of socialism was dominant in the region. This chapter discusses Russia’s health profile over the course of the late nineteenth century to the present. Chapter 5 covers the country’s current health crisis.

In examining Russia’s health situation, it is important to recognize that there is a distinct pattern of health problems corresponding to each stage of a country’s change in social organization from a rural to an urban society and from an agricultural to an industrial economy. The principal causes of death in rural agrarian societies are infectious and parasitic diseases, which typically result in high infant mortality and relatively low life expectancy. Once urbanization and industrialization are underway the pattern changes. Life expectancy increases, infant mortality declines, and infectious and parasitic diseases are generally curtailed, but heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses emerge as the leading causes of death. Applying this pattern to the Russian experience since the late 1890s will help locate the point at which the country’s development diverged into a pathway toward increased mortality.

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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Health and Social Change in Russia and Eastern Europe
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Social Determinants of the Decline in Longevity 29
  • Chapter 3 - Health Lifestyles: a Theoretical Perspective 53
  • Chapter 4 - Russia: Life Expectancy and Social Change 81
  • Chapter 5 - Russia: the Current Health Crisis 99
  • Chapter 6 - Hungary 123
  • Chapter 7 - Poland 143
  • Chapter 8 - The Czech Republic and Slovakia 169
  • Chapter 9 - Romania 193
  • Chapter 10 - Bulgaria 211
  • Chapter 11 - East Germany 227
  • Chapter 12 - Conclusion 245
  • Appendix 253
  • References 255
  • Subject Index 277
  • Author Index 282
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