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Article

Divergent Paths for Adult Mortality in Russia and Central Asia: Evidence from Kyrgyzstan

Plos One. 2013. Vol. 8. No. 10. P. 1-8.
Guillot M., Torgasheva L., Gavrilova N., Denisenko M. B.

Adult mortality has been lower in Kyrgyzstan vs. Russia among males since at least 1981 and among females since 1999. Also, Kyrgyzstan’s mortality fluctuations have had smaller amplitude. This has occurred in spite of worse macro-economic outcomes in Kyrgyzstan. To understand these surprising patterns, we analyzed cause-specific mortality in Kyrgyzstan vs. Russia for the period 1981-2010, using unpublished official data. We find that, as in Russia, fluctuations in Kyrgyzstan have been primarily due to changes in external causes and circulatory causes, and alcohol appears to play an important role. However, in contrast with Russia, mortality from these causes in Kyrgyzstan has been lower and has increased by a smaller amount. As a result, the mortality gap between the two countries is overwhelmingly attributable to external and cardio-vascular causes, and more generally, to causes that have been shown to be strongly related to alcohol consumption. These cause-specific results, together with the existence of large ethnic differentials in mortality in Kyrgyzstan, highlight the importance of cultural and religious differences, and their impact on patterns of alcohol consumption, in explaining the mortality gap between the two countries. These findings show that explanatory frameworks relying solely on macro-economic factors are not sufficient for understanding differences in mortality levels and trends among former Soviet republics.