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The health crisis in the former Soviet Union: A report from the 'post-war' zone


  • Field, Mark G.


Observers of the Soviet health and demographic scene have noted that many of the phenomena (particularly mortality) were unprecedented in 'peace time.' In fact, the Cold War (or Third World War) was 'war time,' although not in the conventional military sense (it was ideological, political and economic warfare). The health crisis in the former Soviet Union is partly the result of that lost conflict by the Soviet side due to its inability to match the West in defense outlays and to provide for the needs of the civilian sector. Health conditions began to deteriorate in the late sixties, and were exacerbated by the collapse of the Soviet Empire in late 1991. These were reflected in increasing mortality and morbidity, decreasing natality, a deteriorating health service, and an environment ruined by the heedless drive toward industrialization and militarization. This resulted in a 'systemic' breakdown of the Soviet system, not only its health care structure. The situation of the former Soviet Union is that of a country that has suffered a humiliating national defeat with all the consequences of a 'post-war' situation, including inflation, anomie and social polarization. The health crisis is likely to get worse, and will not be resolved until a viable political, economic and social order is established. Today's deteriorating health and demographic situation will create 'echo' problems in the decade to come.

Suggested Citation

  • Field, Mark G., 1995. "The health crisis in the former Soviet Union: A report from the 'post-war' zone," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 41(11), pages 1469-1478, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:41:y:1995:i:11:p:1469-1478

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    1. Van Gundy, Karen & Schieman, Scott & Kelley, Margaret S. & Rebellon, Cesar J., 2005. "Gender role orientations and alcohol use among Moscow and Toronto adults," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(11), pages 2317-2330, December.
    2. Sheaff, Rod, 2005. "Governance in gridlock in the Russian health system; the case of Sverdlovsk oblast," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(10), pages 2359-2369, May.
    3. Oleksiy Ivaschenko, 2004. "Longevity in Russia's Regions: Do Poverty and Low Public Health Spending Kill?," WIDER Working Paper Series RP2004-40, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    4. Liu, Yuanli & Rao, Keqin & Fei, John, 1998. "Economic transition and health transition: comparing China and Russia," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 103-122, May.
    5. Michael Lokshin & Martin Ravallion, 2008. "Testing for an economic gradient in health status using subjective data," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(11), pages 1237-1259.
    6. France Meslé & Jacques Vallin, 2017. "The End of East–West Divergence in European Life Expectancies? An Introduction to the Special Issue," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 33(5), pages 615-627, December.
    7. Pavel Grigoriev & France Meslé & Vladimir M. Shkolnikov & Evgeny Andreev & Agnieszka Fihel & Marketa Pechholdova & Jacques Vallin, 2014. "The Recent Mortality Decline in Russia: Beginning of the Cardiovascular Revolution?," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 40(1), pages 107-129, March.
    8. Elizabeth Brainerd & David M. Cutler, 2005. "Autopsy on an Empire: Understanding Mortality in Russia and the Former Soviet Union," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 107-130, Winter.
    9. Astghik Mavisakalyan & Vladimir Otrachshenko & Olga Popova, 2019. "Can bribery buy health? Evidence from post-communist countries," Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre Working Paper series WP1905, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School.
    10. Sergey Timonin & Inna Danilova & Evgeny Andreev & Vladimir M. Shkolnikov, 2017. "Recent Mortality Trend Reversal in Russia: Are Regions Following the Same Tempo?," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 33(5), pages 733-763, December.
    11. Nataliia Levchuk, 2009. "Alcohol and mortality in Ukraine," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2009-017, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    12. Mavisakalyan, Astghik, 2018. "Do employers reward physical attractiveness in transition countries?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 38-52.
    13. Lokshin, Michael & Ravallion, Martin, 2005. "Searching for the economic gradient in self-assessed health," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3698, The World Bank.
    14. Michael Lokshin & Martin Ravallion, 2008. "Testing for an economic gradient in health status using subjective data," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(11), pages 1237-1259, November.
    15. Lauri Leppik & Allan Puur, 2020. "Longevity of World War II Estonian volunteers in the Finnish Army: A follow-up study of the impact of the post-war life course and repressions," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 43(39), pages 1155-1184.
    16. Christopher Gerry & Tomasz Marek Mickiewicz & Zlatko Nikoloski, 2010. "Did Mass Privatisation really increase Post-Communist male mortality?," UCL SSEES Economics and Business working paper series 103, UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES).


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