Saturday, May 28, 2011

Window on Eurasia: Muscovites Live a Decade Longer than Do Russians beyond the Ring Road

Paul Goble

Staunton, May 28 – Muscovites currently live on average nearly ten years longer than do Russians outside the capital, a reflection of differences in education, income and governmental support and yet another way in which residents of the capital city, on whom so many base their assessment of Russia as a whole, are in fact becoming almost another nation.

In an article posted on the “Svobodnaya pressa” portal yesterday, Svetlana Gomzikova points out that residents of the Russian capital and especially the most senior members of the elite have life expectancies equal to those in Switzerland and the US while other Russians have life expectancies typical of the developing world (

For the Russian Federation as a whole, United Nations statistics say, life expectancy for men is now 58.7 years and for women 71.8 years. These figures are 16 years lower than life expectancy for men in the United States and nine years lower than that for women in the US, and the Russian numbers are lower than all of the former Soviet republics, except Kazakhstan.

But these global Russian figures conceal as much as they reveal, Gomzikova suggests. Men living in Moscow have a life expectancy of 67.3 years, and Russian men living in the Central Administrative District of the Russian capital have a still longer live expectancy, 70.4 years. Women living there can expect to live 78.8 years.

The reason for that, demographers say, is in people there have “a high level of education and income [and] have greater possibilities to concern themselves with health.” Their conclusion, Gomzikova says, is “partially confirmed” by the fact that men in the south and southeastern parts of the capital have live expectancies two to three years less than for the city as a whole.

In addition, the “Svobodnaya pressa” journalist says, there are “significant differences in the mortality of the adult population depending on the level of education and the character of work: the level of mortality among workers and peasants is higher than among those who are engaged in mental work.”

Russian sociologists calculate that “mortality in Russia falls for men by nine percent and for women by seven percent for each additional year of schooling.” And that allows one to conclude, Gomrikova suggests, that “the growth of Russian mortality is the result of the growth of mortality in the less educated strata of the population.”

That has prompted demographers to argue that the Russian authorities now very concerned about demography should focus their efforts not so much on boosting the birth rate than on improving behavior and solving social problems – despite all the difficulties such a shift in approach would entail.

But despite the relatively low life expectancies among Russians, experts like Vladimir Khavinson, the head of the St. Petersburg Institute of Bio-Regulation and Gerontology say, Russia increasingly faces a problem that other countries are having to confront as well: the aging of the population and the increasing share of pensioners relative to workers.

That problem is all the greater in Russia because it has one of the lowest pension ages in the world. Given that the more educated and urbanized population lives longer, that in turn means that less educated workers are going to be forced to support larger numbers of older but more educated Russians, a situation that could generate new political conflicts.

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