Journal Article

Patterns in the relationship between life expectancy and gross domestic product in Russia in 2005-15: a cross-sectional analysis

Shkolnikov, V. M., Andreev, E. M., Tursun-Zade, R., Leon, D. A.
The Lancet Public Health, 4:4, e181–e188 (2019)
Open Access


Background: Since 2005, Russia has made substantial progress, experiencing an almost doubling of per-capita gross domestic product by purchasing power parity (GDP [PPP]) to US$24 800 and witnessing a 6-year increase in life expectancy, reaching 71·4 years by 2015. Even greater gains in GDP (PPP) were seen for Moscow, the Russian capital, reaching $43 000 in 2015 and with a life expectancy of 75·5 years. We aimed to investigate whether mortality levels now seen in Russia are consistent with what would be expected given this new level of per-capita wealth.
Methods: We used per-capita GDP (PPP) and life expectancy from 61 countries in 2014–15, plus those of Russia as a whole and its capital Moscow, to construct a Preston curve expressing the relationship between mortality and national wealth and to examine the positions of Russia and other populations relative to this curve. We adjusted life expectancy values for Moscow for underestimation of mortality at older ages. For comparison, we constructed another Preston curve based on the same set of countries for the year 2005. We used the stepwise replacement algorithm to decompose
mortality differences between Russia or Moscow and comparator countries with similar incomes into age and cause-of-death components.
Findings: Life expectancy in 2015 for both Russia and Moscow lay below the Preston-curve-based expectations by 6·5 years and 4·9 years, respectively. In 2015, Russia had a lower per-capita income than 36 of the comparator countries but lower life expectancy than 60 comparator countries. However, the gaps between the observed and the Preston-expected life expectancy values for Russia have diminished by about 25% since 2005, when the life expectancy gap was 8·9 years for Russia and 6·6 years for Moscow. When compared with countries with similar level of income,
the largest part of the life expectancy deficit was produced by working-age mortality from external causes for Russia and cardiovascular disease at older ages for Moscow.
Interpretation: Given the economic wealth of Russia, its life expectancy could be substantially higher. Sustaining the progress seen over the past decade depends on the ability of the Russian Government and society to devote adequate resources to people’s health.

Keywords: Russian Federation
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.