The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies

Social change and health developments in Russia and the Baltic Sea Region. Emerging social and regional differences

Field: Sociologi, medicinsk sociologi
Project leader: Denny Vågerö
Starting year: 2002

The research project “Social change and health developments in Russia and the Baltic Sea Region” monitors and analyses social and health trends in Central and Eastern Europe, in particular developments in Russia and the countries of the Baltic Sea region.

The collapse of the communist system in 1989-91 and the following great social changes were initially accompanied by huge social costs; these were seen most clearly in deteriorating health of the populations in these countries. A series of public health crises followed after 1989, of shortest duration in Poland and the Czech Republic, still continuing in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldavia. Thus Russia is still suffering from massive poverty and from an inability to improve the life expectancy and health of its population. In contrast, all three Baltic States are now progressing in health terms. Thus a pattern of diverging health trends dominates presently between countries. This divergence is also seen within countries; ethnic differences in health have been shown to increase in Estonia, and social differences to increase in both Estonia and Russia during the transition period. We continue to monitor this development.

Our research focus is both on present developments and their historical roots. Four specific research areas are in focus in the project; they include the role of alcohol in the health of Russian and Baltic populations; the role of mass poverty for the present health crisis in Russia, including hunger and poverty in the past; we study “the suicide epidemic of the century” in these countries, as well as violence in general in post-communist society.