What was life expectancy in AD 500

Growing old was far from easy because of these medical and superstitious practices. On the basis of tax lists one could determine that in the 14./15. The female mortality between the ages of 20 and 40 was much higher than that of men. Due to the many pregnancies and births - 20 births in one marriage were not uncommon - and the heavy physical housework and field work, the average life expectancy for women was only 29.8 years. Because contraception, like abortion, was punished by the influence of the clergy with death.

Albrecht Dürer's mother, Barbara Holper (1452-1514) gave birth to 18 children within 25 years. The average interval between their children's births was one year and seven months, and their due dates ranged from nine to 29 months.

Men, on the other hand, were (or are) easily susceptible to disease, especially in the first two years of their lives. When they had overcome this critical time, they would reach an age between 40 and 60 years. The high male death rate among young children pushed the average male life expectancy down to 28.4 years.

According to the historian Klaus Arnold, one of two children born died in the Middle Ages in their first year of life. Even in good times, every fifth child died before they could be two years old. Of the 20 children of a medieval mother, no more than 1-2 children ultimately reached the age of marriage. Of the 18 children of Barbara Holper around 1502, only the 31-year-old Albrecht Dürer junior was still alive. and his two brothers, 18 year old Endres and 12 year old Hans.

The medieval people were young. Probably about half of the population was younger than 21 years, maybe even a third younger than 14 years.