Temperance and the Russian Mortality Crisis


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Post-doctoral Fellow
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Senior Fellow by Courtesy
  • Professor, Medicine (CHP/PCOR)
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Senior Fellow

The researchers found that the reduction of official alcohol sales had a sizeable effect on overall mortality.  The estimates imply that the decline in sales reduces the crude death rate by 1.53 or more than 10 percent.  They also found that total alcohol consumption declined by much less than official alcohol sales as people began to buy or distill illegally produced alcohol (‘samogon’).  Calculations showed that the campaign (including the substitution to samogon) saved about 80,000 lives in Russia between 1986 and 1989.  The researcher also found that price increases account for 45 percent of the total effect.  Lastly, the researchers estimated how fast alcohol consumption and hence mortality increased after the campaign was renounced in 1989.  They found that the ‘rebound effect’ is strongest in the years immediately following the campaign (1990-92) and levels off in the years after (1993-95).  They showed that rising alcohol consumption can account for almost 50% of the mortality increase from 1990 to 1992 but only 5% of the increase in 1993 and 1994. A paper entitled “The Gorbachev Anti-Alcohol Campaign and Russia’s Mortality Crisis” was published as a working paper series at the Social Science Research network in March 2011.