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Russia’s “Excess Mortality”

eberstat042508.jpgNicholas Eberstadt of AEI and Hans Groth of Pfizer have a column about Russia’s demographic crisis in today’s Wall Street Journal – and it appears that it is going to take more than giving away prizes of SUVs to pregnant women to fix the problem: “The causes of death are clear enough: Skyrocketing mortality from cardiovascular disease and injuries (accidents, poisoning, suicides and homicides). The underlying causes here are harder to pinpoint, but we can mention a number of plausible factors: Poor diet, lack of exercise, heavy smoking, and social stress. Russia’s deadly love affair with the vodka bottle remains legendary, and looks to be another significant factor, with per capita consumption extraordinarily high. Russia’s “excess mortality” threatens to straitjacket Russian productivity and development. It is true that Russia has enjoyed robust economic growth rates over the past several years, but this has primarily been generated by oil and gas exports. In the modern world economy, a country’s health profile is an essential element of its sustainable economic potential – quite arguably, the key element. How can Russia hope to be a vibrant modern economy with a dwindling and debilitated workforce and a life expectancy which is a full 12 years shorter than in Western Europe? No modern society can expect to enjoy an Irish standard of living on an Indian survival schedule.