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Stanford research casts sober light on Russia's mortality crisis
Date:4/13/2011

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russians were faced with more than the demise of a political system. Working-age men began dying in droves, and the country saw a 40 percent surge in deaths between 1990 and 1994.

The killer was often alcohol that much was clear. And for years, many economists and political scientists have blamed Russia's lurch toward democracy and capitalism for driving those men to drink. They reasoned that privatization left many people unskilled and unemployable, ushering in a sense of listlessness and depression that mixed too easily with cheap vodka.

But Stanford researchers have dug up evidence that helps get democracy and capitalism off the hook and points to a new culprit: the end of an anti-alcohol campaign that contributed to a plunge in mortality rates during its short life in the Gorbachev era.

"Most things that kill people disproportionately kill babies and the elderly," said Grant Miller, an assistant professor of medicine and faculty member of the Center for Health Policy. "But working-age men accounted for the largest spike in deaths in the early 1990s. Many people suspect that's somehow entwined with political and economic transition, but there's a lot more to it than that."

Most of the deaths during Russia's mortality crisis were from alcohol poisoning, drunken violence or slower killers like heart attacks and strokes, he said.

Miller has outlined the findings based on newly compiled and digitized archival data in a working paper written in collaboration with associate professor of medicine Jay Bhattacharya and Christina Gathmann, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Mannheim in Germany. Their research was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health through Stanford's Center on the Demography and Economics of Health and Aging.

Their study shows a steady rise in the number of deaths between the early 1960s and 1984 in one of the world'
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Contact: Adam Gorlick
agorlick@stanford.edu
650-725-0224
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert

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