When Russian health officials reported earlier this summer that mortality rates in Russia had ticked up again, Vladimir Putin said this was because Russians were living longer and thus dying as a result. But yesterday Russia’s health minister said the real causes are excessive consumption of alcohol and a rising tide of suicides.
Putin’s claim did not make much sense to the expert community in Russia or the West, but as with all declarations by the Kremlin leader, it was widely reported and quite likely widely believed by many Russians and others as well. For background on his statement, see Moscow Seeks to Shift Blame to Russia’s Regions for Rising Mortality Rates).
During a visit to Barnaul, Veronika Skvortsova said that “mortality has increased in Russia and this is not because the population is aging. Mortality is rising among young people aged 30 to 45,” and the horrific fact is that autopsies show that 70 percent of them had alcohol in their bloodstreams.
Moreover, the health minister added, “for the first time in recent years, the number of suicides has increased as well.” That too is “a major problem” that must be addressed if the mortality figures are to be improved.
Both the increased consumption of alcohol and the rising tide of suicides among this age group have their roots in the economic crisis and the desperation many Russians feel about the future. But Putin shares part of the blame because his policies have made alcohol more available and social and medical support less so.