12 November 2010

Live Fast and Die Young: Alcohol, Tobacco, Heroin

I have not found a good explanation for the short life expectancy of men in Russia, but at least alcohol, tobacco, and heroin are contributing factors.

A bit of background:  A few The mortality rate amongst boys is much higher than girls.  At birth, there are slightly more Russian boys than girls (1.05:1) and, by the age of 15, there many fewer boys than girls (0.92:1) (this gender imbalance has major implications for both men and women).

According to The World Bank, Russians' life expectancy is less than the world average.  This graphic provides a good overview of life spans in Russia versus the rest of the world, the US, and Sweden over time.  Notice the up and down nature of the Russian line, versus the other lines on the graph.

The average life expectancy of Russians is 68.7 years.  For Russian women, the expectancy is 74.7 years.  Russian men, on average, live a whopping 12 years less than their fair ladies with an expected life span of 62.8 years.

Alcohol is the visible stain on the Russian soul, but this stain has been around for so long that it is considered a permanent fixture.  Russians like drinking, know that they like drinking, and like the fact that they like drinking.  Apparently - and I am vague on the facts - some Russian tzar had to make a choice of converting his nation either into Islam or Christianity.  At that time, muslims were at the apex of culture, wealth, and politics.  Accordingly, the tzar was favoring joining forces with the muslims but ultimately decided against it because it meant saying goodbye to the bottle.

I have not found any hard statistic quantifying the degree to which alcohol drags down Russian life expectancy, but the World Health Organization says that Russian alcohol consumption is twice the level that it has set as a tolerable standard.

An Unfortunate and Common Site

Smoking surely is a Russian life clipper; and, per my observation, more Russian men than women take up this nasty habit addiction.  There are many more smokers in Russia in the US but, in general, there are many more smokers in the rest of the world than in the US.  I found it interesting when visitors from Europe made the same observation.  Russia's Health and Social Development Ministry also agrees as it just described Russia as "the most smoking nation in the world."  Apparently, up to 400,000 Russians die a year due to smoking-related illnesses.

Russian Roulette

Heroin is also a (not so) hidden addiction that is killing Russians before due time.  According to recent statistics published in the BBC, there are 2,500,000 Russians hooked on this disease.  In the US, there are around 800,000 heroin addicts.  The respective 2010 populations of these countries are 139,000,000 and 310,000,000.  In other words, 18 Russians out of every 1,000 is addicted to heroin compared to less than 3 Americans out of every 1,000.  Sadly, Russia is world's larget heroin market; the single country of Russia consumes almost as much heroin as the rest of Europe.

Afghani Army Invades Russia

I see evidence of this affliction on occasion when I am taking a walk about even the most respectable parts of Moscow:  I disgustingly kick syringes and needles carelessly dropped on the walkways out of sight.  If visuals do not bother you, here is some more ugly evidence.

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