Health Problems and the Transition from Communism in the Former Soviet Union: Towards an Explanation

Christian Haerpfer, Claire Wallace, Pamela Abbott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we develop an explanation for the health crisis in the former Soviet Union based on social theory. The collapse of the former Soviet Union was marked by a dramatic rise in mortality and morbidity. Epidemiological and sociological explanations to date have focused on explaining the raise in mortality implicating either unhealthy lifestyles, which included heavy smoking, drinking, lack of exercise and poor diets, or individual stress as the primary causes, while acknowledging that the decline of the public health services and the rise in poverty are also likely contributory causes. However, the broader sociological implications of these issues have not been adequately theorised. In this paper we develop and test four explanations of the decline in health in the former in the Soviet Union in the 1990s: that it was due to poverty; that it was due to unhealthy lifestyles; and that it was due to alienation from the social and political system; that it is due to a form of anomie that we term 'transition stress'. We link this to the ruptures in the social, economic and political system, associated with a loss of social cohesion, which have had individual health consequences. We do so utilizing data from a survey carried out in eight post-Soviet countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)460-479
Number of pages20
JournalPerspectives on European Politics and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • CIS
  • Health crisis
  • anomie
  • social disintegration
  • subjective health
  • well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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