Life Expectancy in Viking Age Jorvik (York)

Infant and childhood life-span

It has been estimated that about 17% of the population died in infancy, before reaching five years of age. About 16% did not survive to around 20 years of age. In all, more than 33% of the population did not reach adulthood.

Adult life-span

Having reached adulthood, the survival prospects for men and women were very different.

As this chart shows, 50% of adult men died between 21 and 30 years of age and this may be because of warfare and the generally turbulent times. For women, the risks were in pregnancy and childbirth and 35% of them did not survive beyond 30 years.

The 31 to 40 year olds were the 'middle-aged' people of the Viking Age and 50 years of age would be thought of as 'old'.

Women seem to have had an especially high death rate in the age group 41 to 50 when compared with the men, but this is because about eight out of ten of the adult men had already died at an earlier age.

It was exceptional for anyone to reach what we would today call 'old age'.

Things to find out and do

  1. Perhaps you can find some life-expectancy figures for some modern 'western' countries and compare them with those for Viking Age Jorvik.
    Why do you think people live longer, on average, in a modern society ?
  2. Can you find infant mortality figures which are similar to those for Viking Age Jorvik, for other parts of the world ? These can often be found in a good atlas or an encyclopedia, or you can ask for them from one of the overseas aid agencies such as the Red Cross, Oxfam or Save the Children Fund. You can also find information on the net from
    CIA Factbook ( or
    InfoNation (
    Why do you think some countries today still have infant mortality figures like those of medieval England ?

- 14. august 2004 -