Life expectancy in Russia has fluctuated substantially in the past 15 years. It improved greatly in 1985 in line with a broad-reaching anti-alcohol campaign started by Mikhail Gorbachev, but declined steeply in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Since 1994, however, life expectancy has improved again.
Vladimir Shkolnikov and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Germany, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, England, studied changes in cause-specific death rates at ages 15-74 years.
Rates for 1998 were compared with those for 1994 (the year of lowest life expectancy) and for 1991.
The investigators found that the increase in life expectancy between 1994 and 1998 was mainly driven by a decrease in deaths from causes linked to heavy drinking - for example, acute alcohol poisoning, cirrhosis, suicide, and homicide.
However, they also found that, although death rates decreased among those aged 25-60 years, they remained high among young adults aged 15-24, owing to a high rate of violence in this age group.
The average life expectancy in Russia in 1998 was 61.3 years for men and 72.9 for women.
|Average life expectancy in Russia in 1998:|
Men: 61.3 years
Women : 72.9 years
Investigator Martin McKee comments, "The changing life expectancy in Russia is a consequence of a complex pattern of trends in different causes of death, some of which have their origins long in the past, and others that result from contemporary circumstances.
"This study provides further support for the view that alcohol has played an important part in the fluctuations in life expectancy in Russia in the 1990s, although there remains a need for a much better understanding of the factors underlying these continuing changes."