Life Expectancy in Russia
The life expectancy in Russia has risen to an average of 72 years. This is a great rise compared to the average of 57 years in 1994. The leading causes of death in Russia are heart disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and alcoholism.

The Drop in Life Expectancy in Russia During the 1990s

Russia’s life expectancy had unexpectedly dropped in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, the government turned it around at a quick rate and brought life expectancy back up. A study into life expectancy in the ’90s reports that the main causes for the drop were poor healthcare, economic and social instability and depression that developed in citizens during that period.

In 1992, the poverty rate was 34 percent. With the drastic change of political atmosphere and depression, alcoholism and suicide rates also rose in the 1990s post-Soviet Russia. At the same time, wages fell for most of the ’90s and only began to climb again after the turn of the century.

With the turn-around of the economy, a new government leader and various other improvements, the life expectancy increased. Some people attribute this change to the leadership of Vladimir Putin, but it mostly comes from an overall change in the governmental rule.

The Future Goal

The government, including Putin, does intend to increase the life expectancy further. The goal is to close the gap between men and women’s life expectancy rates. In Russia, men live almost more than a decade less than women. This is the highest degree of difference between genders in the world.

Women on an average live to the age of 80 while men barely hit 70. The lower rate for men comes from their high rate of alcoholism. Thirty-five percent of men in Russia drink more than 3 liters of vodka a week. Vodka is the cheapest alcohol in Russia and most readily available, as it is frequently produced in poor villages.

Because the demand for vodka is so prevalent, it is a booming industry that provides jobs and keeps some families out of extreme poverty. Unfortunately, this cycle benefits the people who get money but hurts the people who die because of their addictions. Due to this, it is hard to imagine the cycle will break anytime soon, especially since attempts to reform alcohol consumption in Russia has failed numerous times.

Current Focus: To Reduce Alcohol Intake in Russia

It is harder to deplete suicide rates, HIV/AIDS and cancer rates than it is to create a society that limits its alcohol intake. Alcoholism is supported as a way to cope with extreme poverty and harsh living conditions in Russia.

On the other hand, alcohol has been used as a means of political oppression in the country. As quoted by the Russian historian Zhores Medvedev in 1996: “This ‘opium for the masses’ [vodka] perhaps explains how Russian state property could be redistributed and state enterprises transferred into private ownership so rapidly without invoking any serious social unrest.”

When the outlook on alcoholism in Russia changes, then the life expectancy for men will increase. Though Vodka is not the most severe leading cause of death in Russia, it goes hand in hand with poverty and government action. Life expectancy in Russia has shown some improvement in recent years. However, it is important not to overlook those points that still need improvement.

– Miranda Garbaciak
Photo: Flickr

alcohol abuse
Alcohol abuse is a global phenomenon. Alcoholic preferences vary across the globe — vodka is widely considered Russia’s drink of choice, while beer tends to be America’s favorite — but there is something most nations have in common, save many countries in the Middle East where alcohol is strictly forbidden. That is the existence of alcohol related disorders. One of the countries with the highest prevalence is Uganda.

On average, according to data based on official records and representative surveys accumulated in the World Health Organization’s 2014 Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, Ugandan drinkers drink 23.7 liters of pure alcohol a year per capita. Males typically consume 25.6 liters while females drink 19.6 liters. American drinkers, in comparison, drink 13.3 liters. As a consequence of what’s often excessive drinking in Uganda, 10 percent of males and 1.5 percent of females have an alcohol related disorder. That’s about three in every 50 people.

The high statistics are in part due to alcoholic beverages particular to the region. Many African countries produce their alcohol locally from sorghum, millet and other agricultural products. The alcoholic beverages industrialized countries are fond of, such as beer and vodka, may be scarce in Uganda, but this is no remedy for abuse.

The consequences of alcohol abuse are relentless and strongly correlate with poverty. One must factor not only the money spent on alcohol, but also the low wages and lost employment opportunities due to missed work and decreased efficiency, and the high medical expenses following alcohol-inspired illness — that is, if one is lucky enough to receive legitimate treatment at all. Otherwise, death is the harsh but likely consequence.

Many of the worst alcohol-related illnesses are neurological. One common neurological disease, called Central pontine myelinolysis (also called Osmotic demyelination syndrome,) is characterized by severe damage to the myelin sheath, a protective insulator coating nerve cells that is essential for the nervous system to function properly. This results in difficulty moving (paralysis,) swallowing (dysphagia) and speaking (dysarthria.)

Another area of the brain that is seriously affected by Central pontine myelinolysis is the pons, a small (about 2.5 centimeters) part of the brain stem. Its job is to relay messages from the forebrain, including the cerebral cortex and the limbic system, to the cerebellum. It is also associated with autonomic functions such as with sleep, respiration, swallowing, bladder control, hearing, equilibrium, taste, eye movement, facial expressions, facial sensation and posture.

Damage to the pons affects these automatic functions, making them more difficult for your body to control and produce. This severe consequence of alcohol abuse effectively renders the drinker useless in a developing society. He or she requires medical assistance and constant attention, which drains resources that may not be readily available in places like rural Uganda. Excessive drinking, in this way, is a neurologic roadblock to poverty reduction.

Alcohol, however, not only prolongs poverty but is also promoted by it. Impoverished people without hope for an economic upturn are more likely to spend their money on whimsical, instant pleasures like alcohol and drugs than on investments for a future they don’t think exists. This is why education and hope-giving humanitarian projects are so crucial to long-term development.

– Adam Kaminski 

Sources: WHO, MedlinePlus
Photo: The Promota

Nonprofit organization Urban Ministries of Durham partners with advertising agency McKinney in order to create “Names for Change,” a venture that allows the renaming rights to household products.

The concept is simple: the items available at the shelter are open to be rebranded with the proceeds going towards providing homes for the homeless. The prices range depending on the product, and can vary from a jar of peanut butter to a refrigerator.

The renaming can be for oneself or can be offered as a gift for someone else. Afterwards, there is a choice to create an official poster of the given product.

From there, a serial number and certificate of authenticity is branded on the product, further immortalizing the newly named item and the step towards helping a recipient out of homelessness.

To date, the campaign has raised $41,065, enough to raise eight individuals out of homelessness.

Jenny Nicholson, the brainchild behind the naming campaign, is associative creative director at McKinney, a company part of the larger mother communications corporation Cheil Worldwide.

Hailing from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s social work master’s program, Nicholson teamed up with Urban Ministries, a homeless shelter, to start up an online game that engages the issues of homelessness.

The online game “Spent” allows players to offer a donation post-game and proposes over 169 new items to having its respective naming rights changed.

Executive director Patrice Nelson mentions the collaboration with Urban Ministries wherein the non-profit serves over 600 meals per day in its community café as well as offering community shelter, a clothing closet and food pantry.

With winter snowstorm Hercules settling in the northeast and key communities declaring Code Blue, the Durham community itself is rallying its homeless to available shelters. Durham Rescue Mission notes that alcoholism and drug addiction keep these individuals away from the shelters

The hope behind “Names for Change” is to create a permanent household that will eventually render shelters as a solution to the problem.

Miles Abadilla

Sources: Herald Sun, McKinney, Names for Change,, WNCN