City of women

  • 2008-07-16
  • By Adam Mullett

GIRL POWER: The women of Vilnius are taking center stage. Other cities in the nation also have a dispropotional number of females.

VILNIUS - High suicide rates, alcoholism and emigration have led to females outnumbering men by more than 20 percent in Vilnius, according to the most recent government statistics.
The Statistics Department released numbers indicating that despite similar birth rates, women outnumber men in Vilnius in all adult age groups. Other cities show similar trends.
Deputy Director General of Social Statistics Dalia Ambrozaitiene attributed the difference to dangerous behavior among young men. "Avoidable deaths are the cause of this," she said.

The discrepancy becomes noticeable near the age of 25, when young men start to drink heavily and buy cars, said Ambrozaitiene. She also cited a significant problem with alcohol-related suicide, an issue that is not so prevalent in women, according to statistics.
Antanas Balsys is an Addictions Counselor at the Vilnius Addictions Disease Center and said that alcohol is a huge influence in avoidable deaths. He said that Lithuanian men have a remarkably low life expectancy of around 60 because of alcohol.

Balsys said the problem is that there is so much alcohol available in Lithuania. He cited the almost free policy towards alcohol distribution and the Baltic States' genetic disposition towards alcoholism. "You would think that there is a law requiring everyone to have a beer bottle in their hands," he said.
While statistically Lithuani-ans are Europe's worst drivers with the highest number of road fatalities, it is not the leading effect of people getting drunk. Multiple organ failure is a more noticeable, but less dramatic demise that is killing alcoholics. Statistics show that between 40 and 50 years old, most alcoholics perish due to organ damage.

Balsys explained that there are different stages of alcoholism where the last involves strong suicidal thoughts. He cites statistics that about 70 percent of suicides occur under the influence of alcohol and that Lithuania has the highest level of suicide in the European Union. "It is in the final stages of alcoholism that you start thinking about raising your hand against yourself," he said.
Gender equality experts believe that societal pressures are driving men to death. Studies done on the reasons between the vastly different life expectancies of men and women in Lithuania found that men are stuck in deep rooted and traditional gender roles that leave them alienated from support.

Research showed that "men have little or no opportunity to reconcile their work and home lives 's this is causing them a lot of stress," Vanda Jursieniene, Head of the Gender Equality Division under the Ministry of Social Security and Labor said.
Jursieniene said that men who took up new opportunities from government reforms were simply ridiculed into not using them. "We had the new paternity leave law passed where men could take a year off with full pay. Not many took it even though it was paid 100 percent by the government, because of the reproaches of society. Both the workers and employers found this new idea strange," she said.

Another factor is migration, Ambrozaitiene said 's men are more likely than women to leave Vilnius to work abroad. "There is still a big difference in the wages here and [in other countries]," she said.
According to Ambrozaitiene, there is a higher concentration of women in Vilnius than other major centers because "young girls from rural areas are coming to Vilnius to find work or to study."
Statisticians are expecting the numbers to move slightly toward equalization with each generation. They also say that the Soviet and Nazi occupations and wars still have a small affect on male populations.
According to the Statistics Department's data, the Vilnius district is the most populous in Lithuania, with over 848,000 inhabitants.