Life Expectancy in Russian Cities

I have sometimes made the point that All-Russian improvements in mortality/life expectancy lag the City of Moscow (or the Baltics) by around a decade. There are some good, relevant graphics that reinforce it from a recent paper:

Щур, Алексей Евгеньевич. 2019. “Города-миллионники на карте смертности России.Демографическое обозрение 5 (4): 66–91.

GRAPH: Life expectancy [male/female] in Moscow [red], Saint-Petersburg [green], the cities [blue], and the rest of Russia [orange].

As I pointed out in 2008, the post-Soviet economic crisis overwhelmingly impinged on the life expectancy of the less well educated (as most of the mortality increase accrued to heavier drinking; more education being associated with higher IQ, greater foresight, etc). The better educated were also able to partake of foreign health and medical technologies earlier. Hence why there appeared this large gap between Moscow and the rest of the country after the mid-1990s.

This gap is now closing, as life expectancy gains will slow down in Moscow – where they are already at First World levels – while the rest of the country continues catching up as it drinks less and hospitals are modernized. Though it will never close entirely, as LE gaps between capitals (cognitive clusters) and the country at large are typical everywhere.

GRAPH: Life expectancy in Russian cities [blue] vs. their regions [blue] in 1989 vs. 2016.

  1. Volgograd
  2. Voronezh
  3. Rostov
  4. Nizhny Novgorod
  5. Samara
  6. Kazan/Tatarstan
  7. Ufa/Bashkiria
  8. Perm
  9. Ekaterinburg
  10. Chelyabinsk
  11. Krasnoyarsk
  12. Novosibirsk
  13. Omsk

Less educated, heavy drinkers are relatively more a feature of the countryside

GRAPH: GRP per capita [bottom] vs. life expectancy [left]; left – Rest of Russia [orange], millioniki cities blue], Moscow [green]; right – total population [sphere size], regions [blue], cities [red]/

Incidentally, note that Saint-Petersburg is within the cluster of million-population cities in that GRP per capita/life expectancy graph, which confirms my characterization of it as “just the largest gorod-millionnik.”

GRAPH: Share of over 30 y/o’s with higher education [bottom] vs. life expectancy [left]; millionik city regions [left cluster], millionik cities [right cluster], Moscow [far right].

TABLE: Life expectancy [men, women, both].

  • Volgograd
  • Voronezh
  • Ekaterinburg
  • Kazan
  • Krasnoyarsk
  • Moscow
  • Nizhny Novgorod
  • Novosibirsk
  • Omsk
  • Perm
  • Rostov
  • Samara
  • Saint-Petersburg
  • Ufa
  • Chelyabinsk

Just inserting this for easy later reference.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. That’s nice. Hope they can afford it.

  2. The 90s neoliberal crash is clearly visible. It took millions of lives.

  3. Philip Owen says

    The death of communism was never going to be an easy transition.

  4. Yeap, but drunken Boris and his team of liberal thieves made the transition much worse.

  5. Gerard1234 says

    Nice work…but I don’t the think male life expectancy in Kazan is not higher than the figures indicated here… or those given in Krasnodar

    Kemerovo, Magadan and Tyumen are relatively wealthy areas (together with Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, albeit slightly less) that are still having low LE relative to their economy.

    Also Moscow , but not Moscow Oblast data isn’t included here. I know it’s cities, but we are talking of a region of about 8 million, that is clearly becoming greatly more prosperous, big GDP increase, better services, job creation and attracting more investment. The Governor has had a few scandals with some strange incidents (Balashikha has probably got more bad publicity than the likes of Aleppo, Kiev, Sa0 Paulo and Caracas) a wife with a lot of business interests and the big problem around the rubbish disposal sites ( which the authorities there have tried to rectify)…but in general all is going fine….it’s pretty much becoming prosperous at the same rate as Rostov.

    It does look from the stats that the ratio of women:men is not decreasing either

  6. What is the differnece between the dashed and the full line for Moscow in the first diagram?

    By the way, here’s life expectancy in some rich country metro areas (some values are estimated). The US is another country with comparably large differneces between its biggest metro areas and the rest of the country:

  7. Madrid is unusually high altitude. Madrid is famous for its beautiful, clear blue skies, and bright sunshine, as a result.

    It seems also in Western cities, that air pollution alone is not enough to lower the life expectancy gaps significantly to national averages.

    In London, they are recently panicking about its air pollution from traffic levels and the effect on life expectancy (they introduce a low emissions zone to London next week).

    Los Angeles is also famous for air pollution (but the compensating factor of its healthy sunny climate will obviously be very significant).

  8. Any statistics on life expectancy by ethnic groups?

  9. It just shows that the fears of air pollution are massively overstated and/or masked by selection effects. Cities draw the highly educated, migrants (healthy migrant effect) and expell the weak and sick. I haven’t seen any fat people when I was once in NYC for example, because the city environment is pretty hostile to them.

  10. Yes there must be many confounding variables like that.

    Maybe the most important thing would be restrict it to life expectancy at birth only of people born in the city. Cities whose population is growing due to internal migration (which is happening a lot in cities like Moscow), will contribute to a city’s higher life expectancy, as part of the risk of the city’s internal and external migrants’ earlier years was lived somewhere else.

    Similarly, some cities can have very different income levels to national average (for example, London, San Francisco, and Hong Kong, in the list, are much richer than their nation’s average) – and this can contribute to things like higher use of private healthcare and different diets.

    • Still I find it interesting:Madrid has the highest life expectancy of all those cities. And it is also the highest by altitude city in your list (at 667 metres above sea level), famous for its clear skies and sunlight (while it is not close to being as rich as many of the other cities in that list).

  11. 20% of US counties with the highest LE are in Colorado, which is a nice SWPL state but hardly elite. It is however the highest state and the one with the lowest obesity:

    As I said, go high:

  12. Dotted line is “corrected” according to their own methodology:

    Следуя работе Папановой с соавторами, для получения более реалистичных оценок ожидаемой продолжительности жизни при рождении мы скорректировали рассчитанные для Москвы таблицы смертности с учетом методологии, используемой в HumanLifeTableDatabase. Суть коррекции заключается в модификации а85+ путем подбора такого значения а85 (=1/m85+), которое эмпирически (на основе сравнения всего массива таблиц смертности, построенных для стран с качественной статистикой) соответствовало бы наблюдаемому значению e0[ShkolnikovV.M. etal. 2017: Appendix1].

  13. Philip Owen says

    High takes you out of range of many allergens, a little considered mechanism.

  14. Doesn’t explain why radioactivity exposure (within reasonable range) also raises LE. Radiation hormesis would account for both.

  15. reiner Tor says

    Low air density is another factor.

  16. for-the-record says

    An NIH study from a few years back, which has some specific references to Colorado :

    Effects of Living at Higher Altitudes on Mortality: A Narrative Review


    Beside genetic and life-style characteristics environmental factors may profoundly influence mortality and life expectancy. The high altitude climate comprises a set of conditions bearing the potential of modifying morbidity and mortality of approximately 400 million people who are permanently residing at elevations above 1500 meters. However, epidemiological data on the effects of high altitude living on mortality from major diseases are inconsistent probably due to differences in ethnicity, behavioral factors and the complex interactions with environmental conditions. The available data indicate that residency at higher altitudes are associated with lower mortality from cardiovascular diseases, stroke and certain types of cancer. In contrast mortality from COPD and probably also from lower respiratory tract infections is rather elevated. It may be argued that moderate altitudes are more protective than high or even very high altitudes. Whereas living at higher elevations may frequently protect from development of diseases, it could adversely affect mortality when diseases progress. Corroborating and expanding these findings would be helpful for optimization of medical care and disease management in the aging residents of higher altitudes.


    Interactions between genetic, behavioral and environmental conditions at altitude are complex and may differently impact on mortality from various diseases. Living at higher altitudes seems to be associated with lower mortality from cardiovascular diseases, stroke and certain types of cancer. In contrast mortality from COPD and probably also from lower respiratory tract infections seems to be increased. It may be argued that moderate altitudes are more protective than high or even very high altitudes. Whereas residency at altitude may frequently protect from development of diseases, it could adversely affect mortality when diseases progress. Corroborating and expanding these findings would be helpful for optimization of medical care and disease management in the aging residents of higher altitudes.

  17. Maybe it’s a heartrate thing over specific time, as in HIIT?
    Or greater variety in elevation just makes you exert more.

  18. Gerard1234 says

    It seems also in Western cities, that air pollution alone is not enough to lower the life expectancy gaps significantly to national averages.

    …but despite all the fuss and increase in car-ownership….the western cities have deindustrialised to such a degree that “air pollution” problems are greatly exaggerated

    Your general point about altitude and life expectancy is probably right (backed up the numbers from Dutch cities and Scandinavia), more backed up by Ecuador and only slightly contradicted by cities at high altitude in Bolivia

    UK , I am sure goes continuously down from higher altitude in Scotland, down to low altitude in the South of England…..I think life expectancy goes in the reverse direction in that example though

  19. Bardon Kaldian says

    80 is new 70.

    Whom gods love….

  20. Cities of the UK are all low elevation.

    The highest is city called Bradford, which is at average elevation of 168,7 metres.

    From a superficial recall, UK cities seem maybe to be half of the already low elevation of most Russia cities?

    more backed up by Ecuador and only slightly contradicted by cities at high altitude in Bolivia

    Some South American cities, like Bogota, can be extremely high. Bogota is 2600 metres above level of sea.

    About these altitudes, it seems different people have different opinions. Some say you shouldn’t even visit them if you have a heart problems.

    There’s probably a mix of good and bad factors, as fortherecord’s article above claims.

    On the other hand local Bogota media views it as healthy:

    If you stay around Bogotá, though, any altitude sickness will soon become a distant memory. Your body will increase your red blood cell count, peaking after a month. You will probably start to feel healthier and more energized, with a good appetite but eating less, and maybe needing less sleep.

    The long-term effects of living here are not fully understood by scientists, but there is a strong consensus that at the altitude of Bogotá, the human body thrives.

    Medical studies have shown a range of benefits from improved cardiovascular health, a lower risk of heart attack, less childhood asthma and a 40 percent lower chance of becoming obese. These benefits are related to increased body metabolism and the extra vitamin D produced by the high UV sunlight.

  21. Perhaps multiple mechanisms involved. And some different benefits and costs at different heights, which would imply that should be an optimal altitude.


    1. Increased UV exposure.
    2. Slightly reduced atmospheric shielding to other cosmic rays. You suggest this is good, and should capitalize this as a marketer of penthouse apartments.

    3. Reduced air pollution (most types of air pollution decrease with altitude).

    4. Benefits of “altitude training” – increased red blood cell volume, lung capacity.

    5. Philip Owen – reduced allergens?


    1, Altitude sickness in the higher cities, and risk for people with heart disease.

    1. More cold winter weather.

    2. Some more complications to pregnancy

  22. Endgame Napoleon says

    Everyone points to reduced pollution and lower prices as the main advantages of transferring the Western manufacturing base to China, but interestingly, Chinese farmers have stellar life expectancy, while America is now less polluted and has falling life expectancy.

    Chinese farmers live in the country, but you’d think that the bad air quality from their massive, industrial cities in a billion-plus nation would affect nearby rural regions. Air is not static. It moves around nearby regions and the globe. That is supposedly why the sheep in Scotland were affected by Chernobyl in the Eighties. Russia’s life expectancy might have something to do with that meltdown.

    In addition to less healthcare access for the non-affluent—and possibly lower healthcare quality for everyone in the fake-feminist era, with its family-friendly hours for highly-paid professionals and low-wage mom workers alike—the lower life expectancy in the USA might be the result of stress, particularly since the economy is awful for many in the bottom 80%.

    It is horrible, though our well-vacationed elites tell us how great it is.

    Many—if not not most—Americans who rely on earned-only income face a crappy, dead-end and degrading scam-job economy, with less chance of even doing as well as their parents, but the social pressure is crushing for many, particularly for those raised in a more middle-class era. Long-lived Chinese farmers, by contrast, have much simpler social roles and social expectations. They aren’t pressured to get costly and time-consuming degrees, licenses and certificates that mean less and less, the more people have them, particularly since advanced software now does so much of the work.

    Automation does free up a lot of time for expensive and lengthy vacations for the highly-paid, dual-earner professionals in their above-firing, family-friendly jobs.

    It is a Gilded Age bacchanalia of self indulgence for the top 20% of dual-high-earner parents.

    They help to concentrate the pre and post-retirement wealth (and benefits) in the “rich” USA.

    Both working parents often have high-paying jobs in “cartel” industries, like healthcare and education, where prices have been skyrocketing for decades, not as much as rent, though. Rent and mortgage prices have gone up by 72% since 1995—-the time when neoliberal policies were taking a firm grip on the American economy.

    Low-wage babysitters with NannyCams, low-wage daycare workers or “retired” grandparents make this middle-class-halving wealth concentration possible by doing the work of raising the dual high earners’ kids for them. They also keep the kids during the assortative mates’ once-every-couple-of-months global vacations.

    For the bottom 80%, wages have fallen into a 40-year sinkhole, compounded by an avalanche of welfare-aided legal / illegal immigrants, willing to work for nothing due to getting their major bills paid by government, with child tax credits up to $6,431 thrown on top.

    Our multinational corporations took millions of jobs overseas. But major household expenses—like a car—have not been reduced at all by this transfer of jobs to foreign shores.

    Automation is throwing another stressful factor into the mix. The average employed person only works part-time, while life’s main expenses are going up, up, up.

    Unsurprisingly, life expectancy for American whites has fallen for 3 years in a row.

    Whites are the ones least likely to qualify for the elaborate welfare-for-womb-productivity safety net in the USA. Many younger and older whites rely on one stream of earned—only income in this hopeless, part-time / churn labor market, or they have one stream of inadequate retirement income, meaning they have to work to age 90 to afford a one-room hell-hole apartment in a dangerous area.

    Since so many American assortative mates either have 1 to 4 streams of retirement income and 2 streams of SS-retirement income per household, two household-supporting incomes under one roof, child support checks sufficient to cover rent and bigly non-refundable child tax credits or huge refundable child tax credits up to $6,431 and the layercake of monthly welfare that covers every bill from rent to food in many single-breadwinner households, only about 1/3rd of the American population is experiencing the hammer head of the failed neoliberal economy.

    The party*party for the top 20% and their pay-per-birth servants, staying under the income limits for welfare programs by working part-time and temp jobs for low wages, is mostly debt-financed.

    So, it likely has a shelf-life.

    Right now, this motely group at the top and the bottom is not worried about the connection between a brutal, cutthroat, churn-and-burn, part-time, scammy, temp-gig economy and life expectancy. It is not hurting them.

    In the bottom 20%, millions of citizens and noncitizens in single-breadwinner households with US-born kids are advantaged by the rigged, neoliberal status quo. They do not (cannot) work hard. If they do work hard—or if welfare-eligible citizens and noncitizens report all traceable income—they go over the earned-income limits for their multi-layered cash handouts from the US government for sex and reproduction.

    It is a little different set-up for the many non-welfare-eligible Americans who must work hard with zero chance of even financing the basics on it. These are the people subject to the harshest criticism, too, whereas the part-time-working citizens and foreign nationals getting paid by government six ways to Sunday for pumping out kids they can’t afford to feed in single-breadwinner households are glorified by the fake news media.

    It sounds like Russian life expectancy is going up, as American life expectancy goes down. Russia shed neoliberalism in a different way than the US likely ever would, and in fact, the American economy is still on neoliberal autopilot. The Uniparty in the USA loves neoliberalism. The more life expectancy goes down, the more our vacationing, all-millionaire politicians love neoliberalism.