The startling recent drop in Russian life expectancy has crowded out consideration of more mundane post-Soviet health matters — especially in the Western consciousness. Russian men lost six years of life expectancy, women three, in the few short years from 1991 to 1994 (World Bank, 1996; Shapiro, 1995). This turned out to be irresistible as a news item. By contrast, there has been scant coverage of the very gradual improvement in death rates which began in 1995 and 1996. This is also not surprising: ‘Russian life expectancy improves slightly’ is not a gripping headline.
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