Vodka causes a shortage of men in Russia

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Russia’s women may be having trouble finding a groom if population trends are anything to go by.  However, alarmingly, their plight may be due to alcoholism as much as it is to fertility and birth rates.  Last month the Russian Government published the initial results of a nation-wide census taken last year.  Since the previous census in 2002, Russia’s population has fallen by 2.2 million to just under 143 million.  However, more worryingly, the proportion of men has fall from 46.6% to 46.3%, which means that the country now has 10.5 million more females than males.

Tom Parfitt, writing from Rybaki, comments:

"While many countries have low fertility rates, here the problem is compounded by a punishing death rate. Smoking, heart disease and accidents are some of the chief contributors. One of the greatest killers, however, is the old Russian demon: vodka." 

"We are only women left," says Nina Burenina, a 75-year-old former milkmaid, sitting in her kitchen in Moskvaretskaya St. "Two of my sons died from drink - and my husband, too. Why hide it?"

While still low, Russia's birth-rate is higher than that of most European countries (12.6 births per 1000 people in 2010 compared to the European Union average of 9.90 per 1000).  However, the death rate is also substantially higher.  In 2010, the country’s death rate was 14.3 per 1000 people compared to the EU average of 10.28 per 1000.

In 1992, there was a sharp increase in deaths from non-natural causes in Russia, which was especially dramatic among working age men.  Rising alcoholism and related conditions were a significant factor.  Russia has one of the lowest life expectancy for males in a developed country and the largest disparity in the world between male and female life expectancy.  As of 2009, the average life expectancy in Russia was 62.77 years for males compared to 74.67 years for females.

Alexander Morozov, chief economist for Russia at HSBC comments that

"The Russian demographic is such that if you look at official projections, Russia will lose a lot of population and end up with 120 million people in 20 to 30 years."

The new demographic realities in Russia are not fundamentally different from those facing most industrial nations--a decreasing population, aging, and major shifts in family composition.  However, the difference is that, sadly, Russian working age men also appear to be drinking themselves to death.

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | Census, Death Rate, Russia

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Welcome to Demography Is Destiny. We launched this to counter two media memes: that humans are a cancer which is destroying our planet and that world population is spiralling to unsustainable levels. The real story is that intelligent and inventive humans will rise to the challenge of climate change and that our real problem is the coming demographic winter. The editors of Demography is Destiny are Marcus and Shannon Roberts, who live in Auckland, New Zealand. Send them your comments and suggestions. 

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