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© RIA Novosti. Fred Grinberg

The decline of the Russian male?

by at 28/06/2011 13:00

Both the quantity and quality of Russian men seem to be on a downward turn. Plummeting sperm counts and testosterone levels with falling levels of academic attainment are reducing the Soviet hero of old into an ever more effete and infertile figure, who now can’t even drink properly.

In fact, the Russian man is dying out. Only the UK flounder, North Sea cod and Florida cane toad are losing males faster, and the unhappy conclusions of scientists show that falling numbers of males in these species has led to irreversible cuts in the population.

This was the grim picture presented by scientists at the ‘Men’s health and longevity -2011’ forum in Moscow.


Getting shorter

“It is generally accepted that men have an advantage in social terms over women, a higher salary, higher social status etc. But despite this men have higher mortality rates for all 15 main causes of death,” professor Shamil Galimov of the Bashkir State Medical University said at the forum, Kommersant reported.

“In 1964 male life expectancy in our country was 65 and female, 74, a difference of 9 years. But today the difference is life expectancy has reached 13 years between the sexes, whereas in Europe it is just 7 years,” he lamented. 1964 was the only time in Russian history when men averaged as much as 65.

And not just life expectancy is shrinking.

Bisphenol A, found in children’s plastic bottles, toys and canned puree, and dioxins, the chemical and toxic bi-products of industry are cropping up with alarming regularity in Russian sperm. Bisphenol A is responsible for Japanese penises getting shorter by 3 centimeters on average over the last 30 years, causing alarm among scientists.


Other nasties

Phthalates, which are being phased out from plastics in Europe and North America, lead and cadmium are also turning up in Russian semen. They get absorbed into the body from plastic utensils, mobile phone and dental fillings.

Polybromobiphenyls, with toxic effects, has also been found in semen, picked up, as many men do every day, by sitting in front of a screen. Medicine also plays its role, most antibiotics leave men infertile for a month.

The expense of monitoring health trends in Russia has meant that these alarm signals were not being picked up on until now, despite triggering health scares and subsequent action in other countries.  


The motherland’s stronger sex

But these bi-products of industrialized modern life, and their unchecked prevalence in Russia are not hurting everyone.

Despite lower pay, onerous domestic expectations and glass ceilings in many careers, these substances that prove so deleterious to the male body leave the female unharmed or even invigorated.   

The phthalates found in plastic toys, for example, makes girls mature faster and become more sexually aggressive.
“And the sooner they mature, the more quickly they start to use lipstick, which also contains phthalates. So they become still more sexually aggressive and with a desire to dominate,” Gamilov explained.

Decline and fall
The Russian man is subsequently withering before our eyes. He has worse health than women and his educational attainment is worse. Worldwide, suicide rates peak in men in old age. In Russia it peaks twice, in the mid-life crisis years of 45-55 years and the second for the long-lived, at 70-80.

Fertility in both sexes is suffering but scientists are most worried about men’s fertility. And over the world aspiring mothers are too, 15 per cent of men who believe themselves to be fathers are in fact kidding themselves. It looks like this figure is set to grow.

And they are in danger of losing even that bastion of Russian machismo, taking their vodka. “Our men don’t know how to drink!” complained Gamilov. While Germans, for example, tend to drink little and often, binging Russians sink more in less frequent sessions.

Alcohol poisoning has been one of the most widely cited causes of premature death among Russian men. Dr Martin McKee, a public health professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, blames alcohol for 43 per cent of deaths among working age (25-54) men in a typical Russian city. He put his unfortunate findings to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC last year, Eurasia.net reported.


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