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How does living in a big city increase life expectancy?

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Inhabitants of Moscow and St Petersburg live significantly longer than people living in other regions of Russia, according to a recent study carried out by researchers at the Higher School of Economics.

Researchers discovered a significant difference between the life expectancy of those living in the big cities and those in other regions. In 2014, women in Moscow were found to live on average 8.3 years longer, and men 5.3 years longer, while in St Petersburg, the average life expectancy was greater by 4.3 years for women and by 2.6 for men.

This tendency began fairly recently - as late as the mid-1990s, according to researchers. Previously, this figure had been approximately the same in large cities and in the regions. Between 1994 and 1998, an increase in life expectancy occurred at a greater rate in Moscow and St Petersburg than it did in the majority of other regions. The second increase in life expectancy, which began after 1998, was more or less unobserved in Moscow. The situation for inhabitants of St Petersburg was more difficult in this period than for people in any other region of Russia, however life expectancy remained above average. Comparing St Petersburg and Moscow, life expectancy in Moscow in 2016 was greater by 3.2 years for men and by 1.5 years for women. Researchers suggest that the reason why inhabitants of large Russian cities have been found to live longer is related to statistical bias due to the high migration rates in these locations. However, such a large difference cannot only be explained in terms of bias, according to researchers. Moscow and St Petersburg differ from other regions of Russia in many ways, including in terms of the average level of education and income of inhabitants. For example, 46% of Muscovites and 40% of Peterburgians over the age of 25 have a tertiary education, compared to only 23% in the rest of Russia.

Another contributing factor to the higher life expectancy is the quality of and access to medical care. Medical centres boasting modern and high-tech medical equipment are concentrated in Moscow and St Petersburg and most qualified specialists tend to work in these cities. Scientists note, however, that this has always been the case, and that further research into the reasons is therefore required.

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