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Life expectancy in Russia on the decline - World Bank

MOSCOW, December 8 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's worrying demographic situation is only getting worse, a World Bank report suggested Thursday, as life expectancy in the country is falling.

Despite high oil prices, relative political stability and the ensuing economic growth, the report said Russia was "one of the few middle-income countries in the world where life expectancy is falling."

In fact, anyone looking for the reasons behind the spiral only had to look at the document's title: Dying Too Young: Addressing Premature Mortality and Ill Health Due to Non Communicable Diseases and Injuries in the Russian Federation.

Poor diet and alcohol consumption have long blighted Russians' lives, and the Bank's estimates of current life expectancy for women at 66, and an even more catastrophic 58 for men seem to bear this out. Life expectancy in Russia is 12 years less than in the United States, which is a startling gap for a fellow-member of the G8 club of industrialized nations.

Since 1992, the Russian population has fallen by 6 million people, and if current low birth and high death trends continue, the country will lose approximately 18 million people by 2025, the report said. That means the population could drop from the 142 million recorded in the 2002 census to 124 million, which would mean roughly twice the populace of the United Kingdom would be living in a country that covers one-eighth of the world's land mass.

Russian men are particularly at risk, as they live 16 years less on average than their counterparts in western Europe and 14 years less than Russian women. The major gender difference suggests that behavioral factors are responsible, rather than factors related to the external environment or adequacy of health care, the World Bank experts said.

If current ill health and disability continue, the life expectancy of Russian males will fall to 53 years, the WB experts concluded.