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Economic Reform and Mortality in the Former Soviet Union: A Study of the Suicide Epidemic in the 1990s

  • Brainerd, Elizabeth


    (Brandeis University)

Male suicide rates in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic countries increased substantially in the early 1990s and are now the highest in the world. To what extent is this suicide epidemic explained by the macroeconomic instability experienced by these countries in that period? Fixed effects regressions across 22 transition economies indicate that male suicide rates are highly sensitive to the state of the macroeconomy, suggesting that the steep and prolonged declines in GDP in the western countries of the former Soviet Union may have been partly to blame for the suicide epidemic. Evidence also indicates that the general adult male mortality crisis in the region had a ‘feedback’ effect on suicide rates, with the loss of a spouse or friend - or declining life expectancy itself - contributing to rising suicide rates. Female suicide rates, in contrast, are insensitive to the state of the macroeconomy and are more strongly related to alcohol consumption.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 243.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2001
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: European Economic Review, 2001, 45 (4-6), 1007-1019
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp243
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  1. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Karen E. Norberg, 2001. "Explaining the Rise in Youth Suicide," NBER Chapters, in: Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis, pages 219-270 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. repec:oup:qjecon:v:100:y:1985:i:2:p:389-408 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Brainerd, Elizabeth, 1998. "Winners and Losers in Russia's Economic Transition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(5), pages 1094-1116, December.
  4. repec:oup:qjecon:v:115:y:2000:i:2:p:617-650 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Grossman, Michael, 1972. "On the Concept of Health Capital and the Demand for Health," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(2), pages 223-55, March-Apr.
  6. Shkolnikov, Vladimir M. & Cornia, Giovanni A. & Leon, David A. & Mesle, France, 1998. "Causes of the Russian mortality crisis: Evidence and interpretations," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(11), pages 1995-2011, November.
  7. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1982. "Expectations, Life Expectancy, and Economic Behavior," NBER Working Papers 0835, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Chuanc, Hwei-Lin & Huang, Wei-Chiao, 1997. "Economic and social correlates of regional suicide rates: A pooled cross-section and time-series analysis," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 277-289.
  9. Hamermesh, Daniel S & Soss, Neal M, 1974. "An Economic Theory of Suicide," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 83-98, Jan.-Feb..
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