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East Europe and Former USSR

Population Aging And The Birth Rate, Sex Ratio Contrasts In Old Age, Marital Status Contrasts At Old Ages




At the start of the twenty-first century, over four hundred million people lived in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, more than in all of North America. Spanning twenty-seven independent countries, these populations represented every imaginable situation in which people grow old. Predominant religions in these countries included Islamic (central Asia and Albania), Orthodox (most European former Soviet republics, Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia), and Roman Catholic (Poland, Czech and Slovak Republics, Croatia, and Slovenia) with important and substantial religious minorities throughout the region. Low per capita real incomes, with annual purchasing power equivalent to one or two thousand U.S. dollars, characterized central Asia and parts of the Balkans. Countries in central Europe (Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary) and the Baltic republics (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) were much more highly educated, urbanized, and industrialized, but real annual incomes again lagged behind other features of development, with purchasing power equivalent to five to seven thousand U.S. dollars per capita.

Aspects of family organization, variations in centralization of government, and other important variations also distinguished these countries. Finally, the rate and level of population aging also varied tremendously across eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.The youngest countries (Turkmenistan and Tajikistan in central Asia, on the northern borders of Iran and Afghanistan) counted less than 4 percent of their people at ages sixty-five or older. More than 40 percent were children below age fifteen, so for each person sixty-five or older these countries had ten children under fifteen.

By contrast, the oldest countries in the region, Bulgaria and Hungary, counted about 16 percent of their people at ages sixty-five or older. A matching 16 percent had not yet reached age fifteen, so for each person sixty-five or older there was only one child under fifteen. The percentage of people aged sixty-five or older was four times higher in the two old eastern European countries than in the two young central Asian countries. These examples were among the youngest and oldest populations found anywhere in the world at the turn of the century.

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Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 2