For every bright fact or statistic about the well-being of people in the Soviet Union, there is an opposite, frequently more meaningful story.
Though comparative Soviet statistics on matters like alcoholism, divorce and illegitimacy are scare, the official press has described them as adverse social phenomena. And it has noted that, while generally lower per capita than in some Western countries, all are on the rise.
Crime, seldom mentioned in the press 15 years ago, no longer can be ignored. This year, Moscow has been frightened by the so-called "carpet murders" of four young women, whose decapitated bodies have been found wrapped in carpet or plastic sheets in a secluded pond. Recently, a retired general's wife was strangled during a robbery in her apartment, and Muscovites casually advise Western friends not to walk alone at night.
Divorce rates are soaring. Statistics show there are at least 800,000 a year nationally. About 200,000 babies are born to single mothers and between 400,000 and 500,000 children a year are left with one parent by divorce. According to the weekly Nedelya, there are 9 million single-parent homes in the Soviet Union -- one-sixth of all families with children.
Alcoholism is growing, with children drinking and committing crimes and drunkenness among women climbing rapidly, according to the Literaturnaya Gazeta.
Soviet Demographers have blamed increasing alcoholism as a major factor in rising death rates among young men. Western demographers believe that these sharply rising death rates may be the reason why the Soviets have not published life expectancy estimates in recent years.
Although the shoddy instant slums of the Khrushchev era have been replaced by relatively well-built high-rises, the new apartment blocks have proven to be isolated and lacking convenience to transportation and shopping areas.
While state pensions are widespread, the minimum payment is a poverty-line $67 a month, and many elderly are forced to take part-time menial jobs.
There is full employment, but the inefficient economy has soaked up virtually every able-bodied man and woman, creating the prospect of an imminent labor shortage. Last month, the state offered new incentives to the country's 31 million retirees to return to work. Many will.