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In Russia, Unhealthy Habits Make Funerals Outpace Births

In her latest report from Russia, Margaret Warner takes a look at the health and well-being of the Russian people, including the low life expectancy for adult males.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Moscow's parks on weekends are filled with mothers pushing strollers, toddlers playing in sandboxes and on the slides.

    The tragedy for Russia is, there aren't enough of these young children to keep pace with the number of grownups who are dying. Funerals are outpacing births in most Russian cities, and an astonishing number of the graves hold men who died in the prime of their working lives.

    Russia's population now stands at 141 million, a drop of 12 million people, says the U.N., since the collapse of the Soviet Union 16 years ago.

  • KIRILL DANISHEVSKY, Chief Specialist, Open Health Institute:

    The mortality rates are two times higher than the birth rate, so you can call it a crisis, by all means.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Kirill Danishevsky, chief specialist at the private Open Health Institute, says the implications are immense: If something isn't done, he predicts, Russia's population could drop as low as 100 million within 20 years.

  • KIRILL DANISHEVSKY:

    A lot of the current dreams of Russia becoming superpower, super-economic — a super economy in the 21st century might not work out, because simply there will not be enough people to sustain this idea.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    The average Russian man lives to barely 60, 15 years less than his American counterpart and 13 years less than Russian women. Cardiovascular disease is Russia's number-one killer, just as in the U.S., but it's three times more deadly here. The reason, it's clear, is widespread overuse and abuse of alcohol and tobacco.

    Official Russia was electrified last week when an international team of public health researchers, led by a Russian doctor, reported that drinking caused more than half of all Russian deaths in the post-Soviet years of the '90s.

    President Dmitry Medvedev reacted with alarm on Tuesday, saying, "We drink more now than in the 1990s," and he called for a stepped-up campaign to turn that around.

    Many Russians enjoy social drinking. The Karma Bar in Moscow on a Saturday night looks like any American watering hole.

    But far too many Russians, especially men, end up like this.

    Public health advocate Danishevsky said the problem is that both alcohol and tobacco are way too available and way too cheap, and he took us on a tour to see that.