Sport and health aspects of adaptation in Russian Arctic areas

PhD, Associate Professor J.A. Yakovleva1
PhD, Associate Professor V.V. Sharok1
PhD, Associate Professor E.G. Vakhnina1
1Saint-Petersburg Mining University, Saint-Petersburg

Keywords: health and sports services, physical education, human resource, adaptation, Arctic areas, healthy lifestyle.

Background. Local communal infrastructure development project in the northern Russian regions are ranked among the top priorities by the federal government for many objective reasons [5]. The ongoing climatic changes associated with Arctic ice cap melting process are expected to facilitate navigation and global trade flows in this part of the world. It is also important that the Arctic areas are rich in hydrocarbons which are in growing demand on the world markets, and no wonder that they spur up the economic and geopolitical interests in the areas [6].

For the last few years, Russia has been active in pursuing its regional development policies albeit many projects in the area have been limited by shortages of human resource due to the harsh climatic and geographical factors including low air temperatures for most of the year, ultraviolet deficiency, strong winds, etc., as reported by many national and foreign researchers [3, 8, 9]. These climatic and geographic challenges may be partially offset by modern health and sports services to make the Russian North more attractive for human resource and facilitate the newcomers’ adaptation to the Arctic working and living standards. Progress in this domain may be secured only based on objective empirical data and studies to identify drawbacks in the regional health and sports services demand and supply situation [2].

Objective of the study was to analyze benefits of modern health and sports services for adaptability in the Russian Arctic areas by surveys of the local social groups.

Methods and structure of the study. For the purposes of the study, we run a longitudinal survey of the university students' social, professional and living expectations from service in the Arctic areas; a questionnaire survey of full-time working Arctic residents; and expert interviews.

The students' social expectations survey included two stages, with 618 people sampled in the first stage in 2018; and 337 people in the second stage in 2019. The second-stage sample was shorter as it covered only the relatively mature people who decided to work in the Arctic areas. The questionnaire survey form is available at

For the experienced working Arctic population group, we sampled 72 people of many professions: see the questionnaire survey at And for the expert interviews we sampled 15 top-professional specialists with vast working experiences in the Arctic areas:

The questionnaires tested a wide range of socio-economic and socio-psychological issues of living and working conditions on the Russian North including: wages, career opportunities, accommodation, social benefits and guarantees etc. Knowing the harsh climatic and geographical conditions of the area and for the purposes of the study, we made a special emphasis on the available options for healthy lifestyle and health service quality and range in the area [1, 7]. This was the reason why every of the above questionnaires probed the quality and accessibility of the local health and sports services including accessibility of sports centers and groups, high-tech medicine etc. in the context of the individual adaptation to the local living and working standards.

Results and discussion. It should be mentioned first of all that every group (students, workers and experts) was found concerned by the health risks of the harsh climate, with the majority in every sample reporting the need for a well-developed sports service infrastructure and accessible health service reasonably independent from the mainland. Thus the longitudinal survey of the student group found the respondents giving a growing priority to the local health and sports services infrastructure with age as they ranked it among the key prerequisites for successful adaptation and professional progress in the Arctic areas.

The health and sports services were tested also important for the student group motivated for careers in the Arctic areas [4] and for the Arctic workers’ group. We found the full-time workers’ group giving a higher priority to the local living standards than the student group – that may be explained by the age and practical experience. The expert group also gave a high priority to health and sports services and every issue related to health, medical care and disease prevention services including sports as one of the key health improvement options.

The question if the local sports infrastructure and service is critical for success of their adaptation process was responded positively by 74%; and the health service and medical center accessibility was rated important for adaptation by 73% of the student sample of 2018. The student sample of 2019 was 81% and 61% positive (“more likely than not”) on both points, respectively.

In the full-time Arctic workers’ group, 97% responded positively to the question on health and sports services; and 86% were concerned by the potential inaccessibility of health services. In the expert group, about 80% mentioned poor or inaccessible health service among the key limiting factors for adaptation in the Arctic areas; and 73% emphasized that good health and sports services infrastructure is obligatory for residents of the Arctic areas. 

Conclusion. The survey data and analyses showed that every group interested, working and experienced in life and work in the Russian Arctic areas rates equally high the health and sports services among the key factors for successful adaptation to the northern living standards. Along with material incentives for service on the Far North, the sample prioritized the local sports and health service infrastructure among the fundamental motivators for healthy life and career in the Arctic zone.

The study was supported by a grant from the Russian Research Foundation under Project #17-78-20145 at the Saint-Petersburg Mining University.


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Objective of the study was to analyze benefits of modern health and sports services for adaptability in the Russian Arctic areas by surveys of the local social groups.

Methods and structure of the study. In order to accomplish the main goal of the study on the successful adaptation of different social groups to harsh Arctic conditions, we organized a sociological study. The methods applied during the study were as follows: a longitudinal study of students of different specializations that are in demand in the Arctic, a questionnaire survey of work experience in the Arctic region, and an expert survey.

The main methods of analysis and processing of the obtained data were qualitative analysis of empirical data, analysis of primary observation data, analysis of contingency tables (for nominative data), comparative analysis and analysis of variance (for metric data). The data were statistically processed using Statistica software.

Results and conclusions. The surveyed groups were disquieted by possible negative effects of the harsh climatic conditions of the Arctic on their health and, as a result, emphasized the need for access to quality health services. All respondents expressed their interest in regular sports activities, which is possible only if there is a wide network of sports facilities, which services are available for everyone. The social expectations of the examined students and workers were confirmed by the results of the expert survey.

The results of sociological surveys confirm that among the proposed facilities of the social infrastructure that affect man’s adaptation in new geographical conditions, special attention was paid to sports complexes and medical centers. As a result, in relation to the conditions of the Arctic, such factors as sport, physical education and medicine were referred by the respondents to the fundamental factors of successful adaptation in the Arctic. The research results confirm the need to reflect these facts in government programs for the development of the Northern regions of Russia.