Health problems and the transition from Communism in the former Soviet Union

towards an explanation

Christian Haerpfer, Claire Wallace, Pamela Ann Abbott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In this paper we develop an explanation for the health crisis in the former Soviet Union based on social theory. The collapse of the former Soviet Union was marked by a dramatic rise in mortality and morbidity. Epidemiological and sociological explanations to date have focused on explaining the raise in mortality implicating either unhealthy lifestyles, which included heavy smoking, drinking, lack of exercise and poor diets, or individual stress as the primary causes, while acknowledging that the decline of the public health services and the rise in poverty are also likely contributory causes. However, the broader sociological implications of these issues have not been adequately theorised. In this paper we develop and test four explanations of the decline in health in the former in the Soviet Union in the 1990s: that it was due to poverty; that it was due to unhealthy lifestyles; and that it was due to alienation from the social and political system; that it is due to a form of anomie that we term ‘transition stress’. We link this to the ruptures in the social, economic and political system, associated with a loss of social cohesion, which have had individual health consequences. We do so utilizing data from a survey carried out in eight post-Soviet countries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)460-479
Number of pages20
JournalPerspectives on European Politics and Society
Volume14
Issue number4
Early online date21 Aug 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Fingerprint

communism
USSR
social system
political system
mortality
health
poverty
anomie
public health services
cause
health consequences
social cohesion
economic system
alienation
social economics
morbidity
smoking
lack

Keywords

  • health crisis
  • CIS
  • anomie
  • social disintegration
  • subjective health
  • well-being

Cite this

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abstract = "In this paper we develop an explanation for the health crisis in the former Soviet Union based on social theory. The collapse of the former Soviet Union was marked by a dramatic rise in mortality and morbidity. Epidemiological and sociological explanations to date have focused on explaining the raise in mortality implicating either unhealthy lifestyles, which included heavy smoking, drinking, lack of exercise and poor diets, or individual stress as the primary causes, while acknowledging that the decline of the public health services and the rise in poverty are also likely contributory causes. However, the broader sociological implications of these issues have not been adequately theorised. In this paper we develop and test four explanations of the decline in health in the former in the Soviet Union in the 1990s: that it was due to poverty; that it was due to unhealthy lifestyles; and that it was due to alienation from the social and political system; that it is due to a form of anomie that we term ‘transition stress’. We link this to the ruptures in the social, economic and political system, associated with a loss of social cohesion, which have had individual health consequences. We do so utilizing data from a survey carried out in eight post-Soviet countries.",
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