Capitalism is Bad for Men's Health: Study

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Agence France Presse

Capitalism is Bad for Men's Health: Study

by
Mira Oberman

Communism may be oppressive, but it seems as though capitalism is bad for men's health, according to a recent study which found significant increases in mortality rates after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

0701 03The life expectancy for men freed from the Iron Curtain dropped by six years between 1991 and 1994 amid social disruption, physical hardships and economic instability.

The degree to which men were affected depended upon how rough the transition to capitalism was and how much income inequality increased, the new study from the University of Michigan found.

And they were significantly more likely to be impacted by the transition than women, the study found.

"The inequalities in status and resources that can come with capitalism does lead males to behave in ways that are detrimental to men's health," lead author Daniel Kruger said in a telephone interview.

Increased competition can create an environment that encourages risk-taking behavior that results in fatal accidents, he said.

An increase in social and economic stress can manifest itself in suicide or homicide and can also cause physical strains which can lead to heart attacks.

"It seems as though there is a physiological embodiment of stress from being in a competitive environment," Kruger told AFP.

Kruger compared the mortality rates of men and women in 14 post Soviet countries.

Male mortality from intentional causes - homicides and suicides - doubled in the region, although it varied significantly by country.

Poland, which had a relatively smooth transition, saw the rate increase just 15 percent while Estonia, which was much more unstable, saw violent deaths increase 238 percent.

More significantly, Kruger said, was that the gap between the male and female mortality rates grew an average of 9.3 percent which showed that "this economic changed was more damaging to men than to women."

"The impact was really for men who are in their economically prime years," Kruger said.

"If you were an adolescent or young adult they may have seen this as an opportunity but those who are say 45 and settled into a routine they might see this as a threat."

The countries most affected were Romania, Estonia, Latvia and Albania, which saw the gap widen by 14 to 30 percent in the first five years after the fall of communism.

The gap grew by eight to 12 percent in Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and East Germany. It grew a modest one to six percent in Slovenia, Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, and Hungary.

The study was published in the current issue of Evolutionary Psychology.

Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse

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