[Sca-cooks] Age and maturity in the Middle Ages (Long)

The Sheltons sheltons at sysmatrix.net
Fri Sep 14 22:35:46 PDT 2007

Both maternal and infant mortality impact average life expectancy 
calculations. In epidemiology, the relative impact of preventable mortality 
on life expectancy can be measured by the Potential Years of Life Lost 
(PYLL).  If you assume the average human lives to be 70, a 25 year old 
mother dying in childbirth would have a PYLL of 45 years [70 - 25 = 45]. If 
a 2 year old child dies (s)he would have 68 PYLL.  When you have large 
amounts of data to work from, you can do all kinds of statistical 
mumbo-jumbo involving formulas with various Greek letters to measure the 
impact of maternal mortality (or cholera or lung cancer) on life expectancy.

The high infant and maternal mortality of the Middle Ages dragged down the 
average life expectancy to under 40, but a 45 year old person back then 
would not have been considered "aged."  This figure is an overall average. 
I'm sure there were variation by social status or location but I haven't 
looked to see what research is available on this subject.  As Johnnae noted, 
nuns were not at risk of childbirth, so overall they may have had a longer 
life expectancy than the average women of the period.

Just as an aside, maternal motality is on the increase in the US for the 1st 
time in years, possibly due to a combination of increased maternal obesity 
and older women becoming mothers.

John le Burguillun

Johnnae commented:
<<< Remove childbirth, of course, and the dangers associated with it,
and nuns might well have stood a better chance of living a long life in the
medieval  period. >>>

True. But are you talking about infant mortality or the high number
of women who died during childbirth, or both? The latter is one
 reason you often saw younger women being married to older men.


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