Plebeian life expectancy has finally caught up to mean Pope life expectancy for the past 300 years [OC]

Plebeian life expectancy has finally caught up to mean Pope life expectancy for the past 300 years [OC]

I remember reading somewhere that the average life expectancy in the past was heavily skewed by child mortality, but that any man that lived past 22 or so was almost as likely to reach 70 as people do today. I can't remember exactly where i read this from or if its accurate but i found it interesting.

It's true, but not quite as drastic as that. Take a look at these charts. The life expectancy at birth in England was ~40 years in 1850, ~47 years for a 1 year old and ~60 years for a 20 year old. So yeah, reduced child mortality is a big factor, but so is improved healthcare and access to healthcare after childhood too, to the point that it's added an extra 20 years onto our lives in 150 years.

There's SEVERE confirmation bias in this graph. Life expectancy for everyone was calculated FROM BIRTH. Life expectancy for Popes was calculated from whenever they became Pope.

This creates a severe bias in the graph because infant mortality is factored into the life expectancy for everyone else, but not for Popes.

A better chart would be to start calculating people's life expectancy from the age when Popes first ascended. If that was the case, I bet the differences would have been much less severe.

The other important point is that the only people ever in danger of becoming pope are well above 20 at least once we leave the middle ages. It's a clear selection bias.

My grandmother lives every day in fear that she will become pope. Thankfully it's a danger I won't have to face for another 50ish years.

Life expectancy for Popes was calculated from whenever they became Pope.

Yes, which is pretty damn old.

Glad to see someone else noticed this whole thing is nonsense.

The last 4-5 posts from this sub I've seen hit /sub/all have been really poorly presented data

Y'all need to get your shit together

She should be. I got named Pope twice, TWICE!, and absolutely hated it.

This is a horrible graph. I don't understand it at all

Edit: I saw in another comment that the points represent the age of Popes. Makes more sense now but still not /sub/dataisbeautiful worthy imo

Hi! I have to practice critiquing graphs for a class in school, so I am making an account to work on this. I am not trying to pick on anyone, just practice critiquing in a formal way.

the good stuff

This is an interesting question, for some reason. I doubt there is much to be learned, in a real sense, but we all do recognize the pope as an symbol of affluence and an 'easy' life. So seeing when people start living as long as he does is interesting. the trend lines do make it easy to see what you perceive as two regions of trends in (what I presume) are pope ages. tick marks are simple and unabtrusive. There are not an excessive number of them.

the bad stuff

the x-axis has major ticks that, for some reason, end in xxx5. Most people appreciate seeing things in even numbers, and the use of ending '5' makes it harder to interpret the x axis. the labeling of the points is incomplete. From inspection of the graph, we are left to conclude that the blue and red points are associated with pope's deaths, but this is not actually on the label. the use of a solid line for 'developed nations' is odd. For one, there should still be yearly points. Since you are using points for popes deaths, then you should use points for the developed nations. In addition, you are using a solid black line, which is the same style and color as the trendlines you used. This makes the graph look less clean and could (potentially) be confusing to a reader. You appear to have used the default fitting of excel, which I believe is least squares. However, least squares fitting is only applicable when the residuals of the fit are normally distributed, which does not appear to be the case for your data. the two regions of data appear to be arbitrarily fit, as in you seem to have chosen then so that you get a horizontal region. Is there a reason to believe this should be the case? Do you have an underlying model for this choice, or are you fitting the data to your arbitrary decision about its structure? Unclear from the graph. square aspect ratio is not really doing you any favors. You should make the aspect ration such that the change you find most important is banked to 45 degrees or so.

Ok, that is all! Thanks for letting me practice!

in danger of becoming Pope

I love your phrasing on that.

Selection bias, not confirmation bias

also, i suppose cardinals with severe illness were rarely elected as popes

Yeah, this graph is like saying "Life expectancy of folks in retirement homes is much higher than the average citizen". OP admits it's not comparative. I imagine I will be seeing this graph on AnswersinGenesis soon anyways...smh

it's like Shirley Jackson's The Lottery except instead of getting stoned to death you have to be Pope

Below is the recorded birth and death date for the adult royal family of Wales and associated Marcher relations

It literally uses

a 20 people sample all lived between 1168 and 1333 They were all royals of the same extended family

Let alone the fact that you posted a blog post from "Sarah Woodbury - Romance and Fantasy in Medieval Wales" as your source,


Please refer to more accreditated sources like the one below on such difficoult matters that require access to quite a specific knowledge and years of study on different topics, to fully appreciate and formulate a thesis, that is already hard work for someone who chooses to be an historian and I believe wouldn't be possible for someone whose main activity is to write blog posts and fantasy books.

In this publication you can see that once you reached 21y.o. you could expect 40 to 50 years more ahead of you (with a great exception during XIV century where the black plague actually killed ~20% of the world population)

The shitty ms paint lines even overlap and he used a mouse to draw a line on the right. The lines arent labeled, and theres no reason to switch colors after a certain year.

Why did you generate two separate trendlines? You could've used a logarithmic curve or an asymptotic curve. Pretty interesting data regardless.

Yeah, there is something weird that causes popes to not die at young age.

Hi, this was just something I did for fun a while back that I thought some might enjoy. Obviously popes generally don't get elected until they reach a relatively old age, meaning they are a biased sample, however I though it interesting that developed nation life expectancy has now caught up.


Papal death data from wikipedia Developed nations life expectancy data from "The Improving State of the World: Why We're Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet Paperback – by Indur M. Goklany"

EDIT: Note I did not force the right hand fit horizontal, just extended the data included and stopped when the fit started to deviate from horizontal.

EDIT2: Boring old excel was used to create the graph.

EDIT3: There are obviously lots of issues with comparing these 2 datasets as pointed out in the comments. I did not have access to better data than overall life expectancy for developed countries. Happy for someone to do a better job.

EDIT4: Updated version here that includes HealthGrove data for life expectancy of 60yo males. Thanks for the suggestion.

EDIT5: Kind of embarrased this dodgy graph made it to the front page. It was just a bit of fun I did back when the last pope died and I remembered it today when I saw the religion graph u/academiaadvice posted... see EDIT 4 for a slightly better version and this link provided by u/cragglerock63.

That's the 'selection bias' he was referring to... old people tend to get picked; old people tend to have a higher life expectancy than the 'average' person.

That's why I like those child bearing hips and am not able to decive anyone regarding that fact.

I remember reading somewhere that the average life expectancy in the past was heavily skewed by child mortality,


any man that lived past 22 or so was almost as likely to reach 70 as people do today.

Not true.

Here's a couple of counter examples:

Eliminating individuals who died before adulthood completely, from the dates recorded below, the mean life expectancy for women was 43.6 years, with a median of 42/43; for men, it was a mean of 48.7 and a median of 48/49.

Please be aware that these people are of the highest class of society at the time, granting them (possibly) an easier life and longer life spans.


Archaeological evidence indicates that Anglo-Saxons back in the Early Middle Ages (400 to 1000 A.D.) lived short lives and were buried in cemeteries, much like Englishmen today. Field workers unearthed 65 burials (400 to 1000 A.D.) from Anglo-Saxon cemeteries in England and found none who lived past 45.

spoiler alert... this guy, am I right?

Another good point. The selection bias deepens futher.

The one-two punch from WW1 and the Spanish flu.

That dip in early 1900s is horrifying.

That is really bad science. You can't pick trendlines based on what you want the data to look like. You have to let the data speak for itself.

No joke, this is one of the worst graphs I've ever seen. If it weren't for the title of this post, I don't think I'd ever figure out what this graph is trying to indicate.

I understand that this place is about interesting data as much as it's about beautiful data, but... these are hideous data

Edit: spelling

Although it's true that dead people would not be selected to become the pope, the correct bias to use here is survivor bias. In other words, they survived long enough to become the pope.

1513 Pope Leo X was the last non-priest to be pope. He was 37.

My little sister got named as pope, I volunteered to take her place as tribute because I love her, but that's a whole different story.

p.s. that stupid fucking hat is sooo uncomfortable.

and TONS of women were dying during child birth, this was before baby formula was a thing meaning another child bearing woman would have to take care of the child. If a man dies his wife would become his friends and the same was common for babies. This is A REASON polygamy was accepted and promoted in some societies.

Plus they have a heavy bias towards older cardinals (and it takes a fairly long time to reach that rank).

Tell that to Benedict IX.

But yeah. These are not comparable datasets.

Someone else raised the point that almost all popes were already in their forties though sixties when assuming the title. Strikes me as kinda disingenuous.

That is what selection bias is. You're just confirming what the other guy said.

Well with some things, we've actually gotten worse at it as we evolved. For example our massive heads (for our big brains) mean that humans have one of the highest rates of problematic births (most other animals have a much easier time of giving birth) because the relative head:hip and head:birth canal ratios are bigger. Similarly it means humans actually give birth "early" compared to many animals. A horse is born able to run within minutes: not because they're better designed, but because they're carried to a greater level of maturity.

Yeah, infant mortality among popes is extremely low

The power of Christ compels them.

Not only were they skewed heavily due to child mortality, but it was also heavily influenced by trade and where you lived. Individuals living in small town New England for example, often lived 20+ years longer than there southern counter parts as far back as the 1600s.

David Saeban was among those historians who collected actual data (as opposed to literary sources and examples not representative for the majority of people), put decades of work into that, and then used it to clear up some common misconception about marriage age, marriage, out of wedlock kids and life expectancy in Europe from 1300 onwards. If you want to have a closer look, I recommend starting there.

Pope nor any word similar even appears on the fucking thing. Same goes for "plebians", unless "developed nations" is filtered to only be lower class people.

ahh there isn't that much more dignity in "letting people die" in the good ol' times it than today.

Modern medicine and technology doesn't just mean we prolong peoples lives artificially it also means the decay of people who kept their body well sets in later and that we can manage age issues that would inconvenience people a lot without being what ultimately kills them. You probably have heard dozends of stories where someones great-grandfather lived for decades happily with his pacemaker or hip replacement just to have it go downhill within months approaching the full century. Many of the things that make being old bearable are modern inventions and the people dying of old age three hundred years ago might just as easily have been suffering for decades more than the old lady that is put on an "unnecessary" respirator for a couple of months.

Being old in the 17th century really isn't something to look forward to, because nobody knows how to stall or manage Alzheimers, Diabetes, Parkinsons, Osteoporosis, Arthritis and all the other old-people-issues.

If you had a nickel for every time you became pope, you would have 10 cents. Which isn't much but it is odd it happened twice.

According to Wikipedia, average age of election has been fairly consistent at 64 since the 1500's with only a few under 55. According to SSA Actually tables, a 64 year old man should expect to live about 18 more years, yet the average pope for the last few centuries lasted only 13.


I usually analyze literature for that sort of thing. And Pushkin was calling a 40 year old woman a "crone". Tells quite a bit about what ages meant back then, huh?

My friends and I certainly can't argue about it either.

You don't have to be a Cardinal to become Pope. You don't even have to be an ordained priest. You do need to be Male and Catholic though....

40 Russian winters will do that to a woman.

I often wonder how many women died from mastitis even if they survived childbirth and all the things that damages from the waist down. Lactation is so difficult to a modern woman, it's amazing we survived as a species.

Poor women and girls always worked, certainly after the Industrial Revolution they would have been working in mills and mines even if they were paid less then men or had different roles. I agree that earlier on they would have been weaving or washing at home or working on their parcel of land, but childcare and breastfeeding wasn't their highest priority. Children could be left in the care of older women or older children and fed pap from as early as possible so mum was able to go back to work.

I think this may really be a representation of the decline in infant mortality. If you go back even 100 years, a shocking proportion of infants didn't make it to their first birthday. Babies dying was a normal fact of life.

Popes don't just skew the results because they typically become popes when they are quite old, but also because they have all survived infancy whereas a large number of the plebs haven't. So depending on the numbers that OP has used the data may well not represent the actual average age of adult deaths.

Interesting graph nonetheless!

Right, this could have been made by a fifth grader in 10 minutes.

Sure. I guess I was trying to focus on the plot itself, rather than the underlying data and *if they should be compared.

I will say that this isn't the worst sort of comparison (in my mind). Clearly the author of the plot did not understand the data, but if one were to use the age of death of popes as a benchmark for what the lifespan is of people that are well taken care of in middle-to-late ages, then the fact that general life expectancy has caught up with such a pre-screened field is interesting.

Not what the author intended (I think), but it is interesting nonetheless.

Those have more to do with going to work than with human anatomy though, even just a few decades ago most mothers did not work outside the home so this would not have been an issue

yes, spoilers for a 70 year old story.

As someone who is older than 20... this is a danger that I had not yet considered.

I'll start worrying immediately, thanks!

Yes sure. I am the first to admit that. Your method would of course be better, however I didn't have access to the data.

Even just selecting those who made it past 55 or 60 would be better.

I would be surprised though if life expectancy for the general population plateaued in the late 1600s.

The reason for posting was in case someone with access to better general mortality data can do a better job.

This graph is as interesting as

"Life expectancy of folks who enter retirement homes is much higher than the average citizen"

It's just nonsense.

I imagine I will be seeing this graph on AnswersinGenesis soon anyways.

I hope not.

Selection of your data populations

This chart is meaningless. All Popes have (obviously) survived childhood, so this is essentially just a case of child mortality skewing the data

i can be wrong but popes are usually pretty old when they are elected so that means a death at30 or 40 is ruled out anyway.

Look at who u/Hq3473 is responding to though.... They aren't taking about the pope graph, they're talking about the population graphs that show a horrifying decrease in life expectancy for WWI. The dip in the graph for all age groups under 30 is huge for WWI, and in comparison, just a minor blip for WWII.

More people actually died from the Spanish Flu the following year than the war

This source does the fine job of excluding death by accidents, violence, poison and war

What good is that data then. The prominent feature of the past is that it was more dangerous to live there because of violence and here you are disregarding that risk completely. Kudos to u/radome9.

I believe this also takes women out of the equation, since dying in labor/childbirth was such a huge part of life.

Twice, Jerry! It was just horrible I tell you, horrible!

The thing is thats easier said than done, its not easy to just say "ok dad, you really look like you should be dying right now, so que are going to pull the plug"

They hate Catholicism for recognizing evolution 70 years ago.

Also why the color switch after a certain year, and then there 2 separate lines of best fit for the pope (I'm assuming, since there is no label)? Did this get to the front page on title alone?

Huh. Is that in theory or reality? When did it last happen that a non-priest became pope?

The thing is, young people don't become Pope.

You also have epidemics skewing life expectancy back then. Black plague (before 1800s though), Spanish flu both come to mind.

Oh, and the Russians and Germans killing everyone.