Let me send "Hungary" a summary of my recent term paper, since it is about a
topic which I feel is extremely concerning, and about which there is very
limited publicity in HUngary (or at least among the publicity that reaches
DEMOGRAPHIC SHOCK IN EASTERN EUROPE
Since the fall of the socialist system in 1989 in Eastern and Central E
demographic indicators in all countries in the region suggest a demographic
catastrophe, never before seen in a modern industrial nation during peacetime.
Birth rates, death rates, marriages and life expectancies all show seismic
Death rates have been increasing dramatically in most of the formerly
socialist countries. Even sturdy age groups have been stricken: for example,
between 1989 and 1991, death rates in Eastern Germany rose by nearly 20 percent
for women in their late thirties, and by over 30 percent for men in the same
age. For more vulnerable groups in less protective environments the situation
is grim. Since 1989, a drop in life expectancy for both sexes has been
announced by several governments in the region, including the Russian
Federation, Hungary, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. In Hungary, death rates
have been increasing in all age groups for men with an overall increase of
appr. 20% and with the largest increase among 35-59 year-old men. Female death
rates have increased for women between ages 30 and 49. (Hungarian data are from
1991, thus recent trends might be worse.)
The upsurge in mortality has been accompanied by a dramatic drop in bir
rates. In Russia, birth rates have fallen by almost 40 percent since 1989;
they fell by over 20 percent in Poland; by around 25 percent in Bulgaria; by
about 30 percent both in Estonia and Romania; by over 60 percent in the former
GDR. Marriage rates have also sharply dropped.
Abrupt shocks in birth rates have been registered in the past in a few
in industrialized countries, but this magnitude has not been detected even
during wartime. Birth rates showed a decreasing tendency for a period at the
beginning of the socialist era, when the envisaged future awaiting a child
discouraged couples in having children. The largest decline of the sort in
birth rates has occurred on the course towards defeat in World War II. Even
then, Imperial Japan and large regions of Nazi Germany recorded a "mere" 25%
decline in their birth rates, comparing to the 20-30-60 percent rates in the
economies in transition since 1989.
The plunge in births and upswing in deaths result in a general populati
decline in the former Warsaw Pact region. The death to birth ratios achieve a
breathtaking scale: in Estonia, there were three deaths for every two births in
1993; Eastern Germany was burying two people for every baby born. Moscow
experienced two-and-a-half deaths for each birth in 1993, while there were
nearly three times as many deaths in St. Petersburg as births.
Although demographic indicators showed a slight declining trend during
final decade of the socialist era, this is clearly not a mere continuation of
those trends. During the last years of the socialist rule in the region, death
rates were gradually rising in most countries; and abortions commonly
outnumbered live births. However, demographic tremors of the scale experienced
in the last five years suggest an extreme rate of distress in these societies.
The reasons are not known. Although demographic data are precise in th
countries due to the mandatory registration, statistics on the causes of deaths
are less reliable. Some correlating trends are apparent: in Russia nearly half
of the total increase in mortality was due to cardiovascular diseases; suicide
deaths rose 26%; murders almost by half; and deaths due to alcoholism by more
than 100%. In some areas the rate of respiratory diseases are increasing at a
concerning rate: while in 1980 there were 3960 new cases of lung cancer
detected in Hungary, this number was minimum 5557 in 1992.
The interesting feature of the phenomena is that these demographic decl
not seem to be associated with any particular set of social conditions,
economic state or political conditions. The leap in death rates may be more
understandable for Russia, where the medical system has broken down and antique
diseases (like diphtheria) are out of control. Yet death rates are also up in
Eastern Germany, Poland, and Hungary, where social, political and medical
conditions are all different.
In the modern world, significant and general increases immortality alwa
predicted either social instability, or regime fragility, or both. Significant
deteriorations in health conditions may of themselves generate destabilizing
pressures. There are unavoidable implications in an inability to cope with
health problems that other societies treat as a routine. Thus, governments in
Eastern and Central Europe should pay far more attention to these seismic
demographic shocks than it is currently happening.
If you have any responses please send a copy to me as well, I am not a
subscriber of "Hungary". Thanks.