Population Research and Policy Review 19: 397–419, 2000.
© 2000 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
The response of violent mortality to economic crisis in Russia
NATALIA S. GAVRILOVA
, VICTORIA G. SEMYONOVA
, GALINA N.
& LEONID A. GAVRILOV
Center on Aging, NORC/University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA;
Public Health Institute, Moscow, Russia
Abstract. From 1992 to 1994 life expectancy for Russian males dropped from 62.0 to 57.6
years. Female life expectancy dropped from 73.8 years to 71.2 years. This drop in life expect-
ancy coincided in time with the introduction of painful economic reforms in Russia, leading
to a rapid decrease in real wages and pensions, nearly complete loss of personal savings,
and a tremendous increase in the poverty rate. This article examines the temporary changes
in mortality for violent causes of death during the crisis period with a special emphasis on
age-speciﬁc and gender-speciﬁc differences in the response to economic crisis.
Keywords: Mortality, Russia, Economic crisis, Violent mortality, Life expectancy, Injuries,
Homicide, Suicide, Alcohol poisoning
At the beginning of 1992, the Russian government started an economic ex-
periment known as ‘shock therapy’. Abolition of price control in a highly
monopolized economy resulted in soaring consumer prices, a rapid decrease
in real wages and pensions, a nearly complete loss of personal savings, and
a tremendous increase in the poverty rate. These adverse changes were fol-
lowed by an unprecedented upsurge in mortality which has no parallel in
modern history: female life expectancy dropped by 3 years and male life ex-
pectancy by more than 5 years within a three-year period (Vishnevsky 1998;
Notzon et al. 1998).
The main causes of death that contributed to this mortality upsurge
were diseases of the circulatory system and external/violent causes of death
(Notzon et al. 1998). Under violent causes of death we consider the ‘external
causes of accidents, injury and poisoning’ category as it is classiﬁed by the
International Classiﬁcation of Diseases (9th revision) on the basis of the ex-
ternal nature of the factor causing death. The term violent causes was applied
to the group of external causes of death in previous studies of Russian mor-
tality (Shkolnikov et al. 1996a, 1996b), and we adopt this convention in our
study for the sake of simplicity. So we do not discuss here the appropriateness