Journal Article

The recent mortality decline in Russia: Beginning of the cardiovascular revolution?

The health situation in Russia has often been characterized as a long-running crisis. From the 1960s until the beginning of the 2000s, the declining life expectancy trend was substantially interrupted only twice: once in the mid-1980s as a result of Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign, and again at the end of the 1990s as a result of the "rebound" effect following the dramatic rise in mortality associated with the acute socioeconomic crisis. In both cases, the progress made proved to be short-lived. A third mortality decline in Russia began in 2003 and is still ongoing. We investigate the components and driving forces of this new development, in particular the role played by cardiovascular diseases. Using cause-specific mortality data, we identify the main features of the recent improvements and compare these features with those observed in selected European countries, specifically France, Poland, and Estonia. Our aim is to gauge whether the features of the improvements in these countries are similar to those of the recent advancements made in Russia. Although the recent improvements in Russia have features in common with initial stages of prior mortality declines in other countries and may support optimism about the future, a return to mortality stagnation cannot be ruled out.