March 12, 2005

Dying Too Fast

I only recently had a chance to plow through Nicholas Eberstadt's fine article at The Public Interest, "Russia - The Sick Man of Europe". The prognosis isn't at all good. A few excerpts...

Russia is now at the brink of a steep population decline—a peacetime hemorrhage framed by a collapse of the birth rate and a catastrophic surge in the death rate...

...In the years ahead, Russia's population decline will continue to accelerate because the prospective flow of net migration into Russia is drying up...

...in post-Communist Russia, the current disproportion between deaths and births is stark, indeed astonishing.

Russia, to be sure, is not the only European country registering more deaths than births nowadays... But, in other European settings, the balance is often still quite close. For example, in Italy—the poster child in many current discussions of a possible "depopulation" of Europe—there are today about 103 deaths for every 100 live births. Russia, by contrast, currently reports about 160 deaths for every 100 births...

... In the late Soviet era, Russian fertility levels were near replacement: The country's total fertility rate (TFR) fluctuated near two births per woman from the mid 1960s through the mid 1980s. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian fertility rate likewise collapsed, plummeting from 2.19 births per woman in 1986-87 to 1.17 in 1999...

... the problem of involuntary infertility in Russia today is further exacerbated by the current explosive spread of potentially curable sexually transmitted infections (STIs). According to official figures, for example, the incidence of syphilis in 2001 was one hundred times higher in Russia than in Germany, and several hundred times higher for Russia than a number of other European countries...

...nearly all of the increase in mortality rates for men—and absolutely all of the increase for women—can be traced to an explosion in deaths attributed to cardiovascular disease (CVD—heart disease plus strokes) and injuries. Between the mid 1960s and the end of the twentieth century, CVD mortality rates in Japan, Western Europe, and North America fell sharply. Russia, by contrast, suffered an explosion of cardiovascular death over the same period...

...As for mortality attributed to injury—murder, suicide, traffic, poisoning, and other violent causes-age-adjusted levels for Russian men and women alike more than doubled between 1965 and 2001. Among contemporary societies at peace, Russia's level of violent deaths places the country practically in a category of its own...

...it is impossible to overlook the deadly contribution of the Russian love of vodka...Russia's thirst for hard liquor seems to have reached dizzying new heights in the late Soviet era, and then again in the early post-Communist era...In 1994...the estimate of pure alcohol consumed by the population aged 15 and older amounted to 18.5 liters per capita annually—the equivalent of 125 cc. of vodka for everyone, every day.

...Heavy drinking is directly associated with Russia's appallingly high risk of deadly injury—and Russia's binge drinking habits also seems to be closely associated with death through cardiac failure. (ellipses mine - Ed.)

More bad news; sky high HIV/AIDS rates, deteriorating institutions of family and marriage, and a government fixated unsuccessfully on growing the birth rate.

Posted by dan at March 12, 2005 8:44 PM