The Incredible Shrinking Russia

by Emily Holbrook on October 6, 2009 · 2 comments

Russia is losing millions of people a year, and not through emigration. In fact, many people are immigrating to the country, but even so, a United Nations report released this week claimed that Russia’s population has fallen by 6.6 million since 1993, and by 2025 the country could lose a another 11 million people.

The biggest reason? Russia’s extremely high mortality rate — the average life expectancy for males is barely 60 years. A recent AP article actually compared Russia’s mortality rate to that in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Though it would seem stereotypical and inconsiderate to place the blame solely on the one liquor Russia is best known for, “most experts blame the country’s overall high death rate on one factor, alcohol,” the AP states. “It has been linked to everything from liver disease to Russia’s high number of murders, suicides and fatal accidents.”

A study by The Lancet medical journal corroborates this perspective

In several recent years, alcohol was a cause of more than half of all Russian deaths ages 15-54 years. Alcohol accounts for most of the large fluctuations in Russian mortality, and alcohol and tobacco account for the large difference in adult mortality between Russia and Western Europe.

In this respect, the future looks troubling for the largest country in the world. The report noted that because of its massive territory, the impact of depopulation will be even more severe for Russia.

Adding to the struggle, in the next few decades, many Russians could be lured abroad as labor shortages develop in Western Europe. As restrictions on beer sales have failed in the past and there are no immediate plans to overhaul the country’s health care system, it seems Russia is in a long-term state of emergency.

Russia faces a tough road ahead due to the country's high mortality rate and lack of effective health care system.

Russia faces a tough road ahead due to the country’s high mortality rate and lack of effective health care system.

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Emily Holbrook is the executive managing editor for National Underwriter Life & Health and the former editor of the Risk Management Monitor and Risk Management magazine. You can read more of her writings at EmilyHolbrook.com.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Nick October 8, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Those are staggering numbers, most of my Russian friends have told me that the motivation to leave Russia is due to tough econmic conditions and widening gap between the upper class and their poorer counterparts.

igor May 29, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Russia surely is facing huge difficulties if there is no “upgrading old bureaucratic systems” which mean that lots of infrastructure, rules, organization principles, information exchange fall well behind best case scenario.

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