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Russians' Perceptions of Health Contrast Reality

by Linda Lyons

Men die younger than women, but are more likely to be satisfied with their health


WASHINGTON, DC -- A new Gallup World Poll reveals that men in Russia are significantly more likely than their female counterparts to view their own health conditions favorably, despite the fact that Russian women live far longer lives. Though similar health-related gender differences are seen in populations worldwide, they are typically less pronounced than those in Russia.

According to the Population Reference Bureau, the average life expectancy at birth for Russian men is currently 59 years, compared to 72 years for women. The 13-year gap is roughly twice the average gender difference for developed countries. Paradoxically, two-thirds of Russian men (66%) say they are satisfied with their personal health, compared to just over half (52%) of Russian women.

The gender gap increases with age; it is just 5% among Russians between the ages of 15 and 34, but widens considerably to 15% among those aged 35 to 49, and 19% among those aged 50 and older. Because of the difference in life expectancy, the oldest age group contains about twice as many women as men, many of whom would be experiencing age-related infirmities.

Russian men are also less likely to say they have health problems that prevent them from doing things most people their age can do (27% do so overall, versus 35% of women) or that they felt a lot of physical pain the day preceding the survey (15%, compared to 22% of women). Not only are men more likely than women to perceive the status of their physical health positively, they are also less likely to report negative emotions such as sadness, worry, depression, and anger. For example, about one in four women (26%) claim to have felt sadness during a lot of the day preceding the survey, while just 15% of men said the same.

While the causes of relatively short life expectancy among Russian men are unknown, one well-documented theory is that they are literally drinking themselves to death. The British medical journal The Lancet in 2006 reported that "an estimated 500,000 Russians die each year for alcohol-related reasons, a figure that covers 30% of all male deaths."

World Poll results certainly indicate a striking gender difference in alcohol consumption and abuse: 18% of men report drinking alcohol (including beer) either "every day" or "several times a week," compared to 6% of women, and twice as many men (20%) as women (11%) say they have suffered from alcohol poisoning. Putting their health further in harm's way, Russian men are three times more likely then women to say they smoked the day preceding the survey -- 56% of men do so, versus 18% of women.

Survey Methods

Results are based on interviews conducted in March 2007 with a randomly selected national sample of 2,949 Russian citizens, aged 15 and older, with oversamples in Tatarstan and Dagestan. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.


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