Class Matters: Health Lifestyles in Post-Soviet Russia

By Cockerham, William C. | Harvard International Review, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Class Matters: Health Lifestyles in Post-Soviet Russia


Cockerham, William C., Harvard International Review


The current health crisis in Russia is without precedent in modern history. Life expectancy has declined for men and stagnated for women in a persistent pattern since the mid-1960s. The average lifespan of Russian men declined by 5.2 years from 1965 to 2003, while the lifespan of Russian women remained about the same. Obviously something is wrong. In no other industrialized nation in peacetime has longevity been so adversely affected and nowhere else is the gender gap in life expectancy--a difference of 13.2 years--so large. Ironically, despite the Soviet social system's theoretical goal of a society without class oppression, exploitation, strife, or health inequalities, the health crisis may be grounded in class differences.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Determining whether this is the case requires an examination of the various layers of causal factors underlying the health crisis. The primary cause is known. Cardiovascular diseases and alcohol-related poisoning and accidents are largely responsible for high mortality rates. Russian women are clearly affected because their longevity has not advanced, but the principal victims are men between the ages of 40 and 59, many of whom come from a working-class background. Extensive investigation shows that other causes of death, like infectious diseases, cancer, environmental pollution, and medically avoidable deaths due to ineffective clinical care, are not the major source of the crisis. To identify the ultimate cause, it is necessary to determine what led to the increase in cardiovascular ailments and alcohol-related problems.

The search for secondary-level causes suggests three major candidates: policy, stress, and health lifestyles. We know that Soviet health policy contributed to the failure to address the epidemiological transition from acute to chronic diseases. As Harvard sociologist Mark Field explains, the Soviet health care delivery system lacked the administrative and structural flexibility to adjust to health problems that could not be handled by mass measures that successfully controlled infectious diseases. Post-Soviet policies have yet to improve the situation. Policy, however, did not cause the increase in heart disease and heavy male drinking; rather, it failed to prevent it. This leaves stress and lifestyles as the two leading possibilities.

Under Pressure: Stress and the Soviets

The stress explanation has a logical appeal because of the well-established connection between stress and both heart disease and alcohol use. Some researchers argue that state socialism's limitations on personal freedom and repressive psychosocial environment constraining innovation, creativity, and life satisfaction promoted widespread feelings of apathy, alienation, and lack of personal control. In the immediate post-Soviet period, these stresses were compounded by high unemployment, the collapse of price controls for food and rent, reduced purchasing power, and new conditions of uncertainty. Virtually all sources agree that the Russian population was subjected to highly stressful social and economic conditions at this time. Women in particular suffered, facing disproportionate job losses and an inability to purchase basic goods when communism collapsed.

Unfortunately, little evidence exists about the effects of stress on health in Russia. Stress research was not sponsored by the Soviet state and has been slow to develop in post-Soviet Russia. In the absence of data, support for the stress explanation for the health crisis remains largely based on speculation. Yet a few studies offer clues concerning the role of stress in the current health situation. These studies show that Russian women are more stressed than men, which undermines assertions that stress has directly affected male longevity. Moreover, stress does not seem to promote greater drinking and smoking among women.

Biological factors like estrogen also protect premenopausal women from heart disease, so stress may simply cause such women to feel miserable rather than shorten their lives. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Class Matters: Health Lifestyles in Post-Soviet Russia
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.