Adult mortality patterns in the former Soviet Union's southern tier: Armenia and Georgia in comparative perspective

Demogr Res. 2017 Jan-Jun;36:589-608. doi: 10.4054/DemRes.2017.36.19. Epub 2017 Feb 14.


Background: While the health crisis in the former USSR has been well-documented in the case of Russia and other northern former Soviet republics, little is known about countries located in the southern tier of the region, i.e., the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Objective: This paper presents new mortality information from two Caucasian countries, Georgia and Armenia. Results are compared with information from two relevant countries previously examined in the literature, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.

Methods: Using official statistics (with adjustments when necessary), we compare adult mortality patterns in the four countries since 1979, for all causes and by cause for the recent period. For Kyrgyzstan results are presented by ethnicity, as its mortality levels have been impacted by its large Slavic population.

Results: Adult mortality patterns in Armenia and Georgia have been more favorable than in Russia. This appears to be due to a large extent to lower mortality from alcohol-related causes. Mortality patterns in these Caucasian republics resemble those observed in Kyrgyzstan, especially when considering the native portion of the population.

Conclusions: As far as mortality is concerned, Armenia and Georgia have weathered the collapse of the Soviet Union better than Russia. These results document a distinct southern tier pattern of adult mortality in the former Soviet Union.

Contribution: This article enriches our understanding of the health crisis in the former Soviet Union by bringing new information from two lesser-known countries and further documenting the scale of heterogeneity in mortality experiences across this vast region.