Thursday, January 15, 2009

(FT) 'Shock therapy' sell-offs blamed for 1m deaths

'Shock therapy' sell-offs blamed for 1m deaths
By Andrew Jack in London
Published: January 15 2009 02:00

"Shock therapy", or rapid mass privatisation, in the former Soviet bloc in the first half of the 1990s was responsible for the early deaths of 1m people, according to a paper to be published today in The Lancet, the medical journal.

An analysis of the 3m working-age men who died across the former communist countries of eastern Europe suggests at least a third were victims of mass privatisation, which led to widespread unemployment and social disruption.

The study adds to a growing body of research in recent years demonstrating how far the economic transition led to widespread suffering through death and physical and mental illness.

The research, by David Stuckler and Lawrence King from Cambridge University and Martin McKee from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, takes a specific swipe at the legacy of Jeffrey Sachs, the US economist, who advocated shock therapy at the time.

Mr McKee stressed that death from alcohol poisoning was the most important immediate explanation for the surge in deaths, while poor diet and the increasing gap between western and communist healthcare from the 1960s also contributed.

However, he said redundancies, particularly among the less well educated and those without forms of social support, was one of the main underlying reasons.

Mr Sachs was unavailable to comment yesterday. A note accompanying The Lancet's paper, written by Martin Bobak and Michael Marmot from University College London, warned that studies were difficult because communist countries varied in their economic strength, health status and ability of governments to respond to transition.

Also here:

Countries undergoing economic change urged to limit social and health costs for populations

Huge rise in male mortality coincided with move from communism to capitalism

Countries seeking to make massive changes in the way their economies are run, for example by privatising formerly state-run sectors, must take into account the potential impact of such changes on people's health, experts warn today.



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