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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin’s War in Ukraine is Undercutting Efforts to Reduce Gender Difference in Life Expectancy and Leaving Russian Women with Fewer Men to Choose a Marriage Partner, Experts Say

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Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 16 – Yet another of the collateral damages from Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine is that it has slowed or even reversed the enormous difference between the life expectancies of men and those of women. For decades, this gap in Russia has been the largest in the world, but it had been reduced. Now, it is growing again, Moscow experts say.

            Among the Russian population as among all others, more boys are born than girls; but because of poor social habits like drinking and smoking, industrial and other accidents, and participation in conflicts, men die sooner and women become more numerous than men at older age groups.

            In the late Soviet times, the difference in life expectancy between the genders was 15 years or more. Now it has fallen to between nine and ten years, and both changes in life style and Russian government policies had promised to reduce it further. But the current economic and social crisis and the war in Ukraine is making the gap larger once again.

            At present in the age cohort between 20 and 29, there are about 7.5 million men and 7.2 million women; among those between 30 and 39, there are approximately 12 million of each; and among older groups, women increasingly dominate the situation (

            According to Igor Yefremov, a specialist on demography and Moscow’s Gaidar Institute, there is a danger that the social crisis of today is spreading harmful habits among men more rapidly than among women and that the war in Ukraine will claim more male victims among the Russian population. That will end or even reverse progress toward equalizing life expectancy.

            He adds that the situation may not return to what it was 20 years ago but argues that “the situation in the so-called marriage market most likely will get worse. Despite men outnumbering women in their 20s, women face increasing difficulties in finding marriage partners but not because of differential death rates.

            That problem, he says, is connected with the fact that “women in Russia on average have a much higher level of education than men do and at the same time seek to link their lives with men who have equal or even higher social capital and level of education.” That means that Russian women are likely to feel increasingly that there is no one available they want to marry.

Window on Eurasia — New Series

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