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#4 - JRL 7221
June 12, 2003
Death Rate Grows in Russia
Births started decreasing after WWII

According to the forecast from the World Health Organization, the Russian population may reduce to 120 million people in 50 years - the level of the 1960s. In addition to a high death rate in the Russian Federation, the situation is aggravated with people's worsening state of health.

The Research Institute of the Russian Healthcare Ministry has recently studied the reasons of the lamentable demographic situation in Russia. Alla Ivanova, Doctor of economic sciences, believes that the death rate growth and the reduction of the birth rate in Russia started after WWII. The Soviet government was trying to create a so-called civilized society, in which a family would have a restricted number of children. The death rate was growing because the population was aging too.

The death rate was rather high in the USSR in the 1980s: people often died of poisoning and traumas. Both scientists and the government were aware of the alcohol factor too, so there was an anti-alcohol campaign launched, which eventually brought a certain positive result. In 1988, the life expectancy in the USSR reached its maximum during the whole post-war period. Families also used measures that had been provided by the state to support the birth rate.

However, the death rate took the complete advantage of the birth rate in the beginning of the 1990s. That period was full of reforms and the population was very stressful at that time. Yet, scientists believe that the high death rate of the 1990s was caused with the Russian method to relieve stress with the help of alcohol beverages. The alcohol consumption was growing very fast, but an increase of suicides, heart attack deaths was not registered.

Alcohol sales doubled over the first half of the 1990s, and the share of strong beverages in the consuming structure tripled. Moreover, the consumption of low-quality alcohol tripled by 1995, which subsequently led to the increase of alcohol poisoning deaths at that time, whereas the overall mortality doubled.

In the 1990s, the Russian population experienced an abrupt social differentiation on account of reforms. Only a small group of Russian people could boast of high income, although this economic index is closely connected with people's health and life expectancy. Scientists determined that people lived up to five years longer in economically stable regions of Russia. "The ties between economic factors and the human health is obvious, but our healthcare system is still living within the framework of the previous layout. The population is viewed from the "average" point of view, but it does not give the perception of the real situation," Alla Ivanova said.

People who live below the poverty line provide the basic negative statistics on TB, infections, pneumonia, children's diseases, but social reasons of that are ignored. There are certain population groups, which do not need healthcare services at all, because they follow Western values, including the Western type of attitude to their health. Yet, the "average" point of view is applied to them anyway. The Russian population has become heterogeneous, and so has people's health. That is why, scientists believe, medical aid arrangements should be different for every population group.

Is there an opportunity to change the demographic situation in Russia? As far as the birth rate is concerned, scientists are being pessimistic about it. Yet, it is possible to reduce the death rate. In scientists' opinion, the death rate depends on controllable reasons - lifestyle and risk factor precautions (82 percent for males and 67 percent for females), which requires adequate long-term state programs. One should also mention the medical care quality (14 percent for males and 20 percent for females).

The discussion of the birth decrease in the second half of the 1990s was based on politics a lot. Another point of view appeared in 1998, when births increased a little: there is nothing horrible happening, the economic crisis will not turn to a demographic disaster. However, after the economic situation stabilized, and the political situation changed in 1999, the death rate started growing again. This testifies to serious processes, which should not be ignored.


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