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Early childhood stress and adult age mortality – A study of dental enamel hypoplasia in the medieval Danish village of Tirup

Early childhood stress and adult age mortality – A study of dental enamel hypoplasia in the medieval Danish village of Tirup

By Jesper L. Boldsen

American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Volume 132:1 (2007)

Abstract: This study explores how linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) affects mortality in the village of Tirup (A.D. 1150-1350), Denmark. Data consist of information on 583 skeletons aged 1 year or more. Three partly overlapping subsamples were defined. (1) 104 skeletons of young children aged 1-6 years and 120 skeletons of adults giving information on LEH. (2) 458 skeletons aged 6 years or more. (3) 109 adult skeletons (aged 20 years or more) that provided transition analysis age estimates, sex assessments, and LEH information. Of the 109 skeletons in Subsample 3, 60 had no and 49 had at least one LEH. In Subsample 1, it was found that the case fatality rate for episodes potentially leading to LEH dropped from over 0.5 in 1-year olds to around 0.1 in 3-5-year olds. Only models with heterogeneity of frailty could describe late childhood and adolescent mortality.

Further, it was shown that only a model with continuously varying frailty preserved heterogeneity to adulthood. Among young adult females and males in all adult ages, people with LEH experienced a higher mortality than people without it. Among males, the mortality rate ratio (MRR) was 2.28. The analyses indicate that the MRR gives an unbiased estimate for the extra risk of dying for adult males with LEH. The values of the case fatality rates for young children might be slightly biased upward because of a higher than average number of older children and adolescents dying with LEH.

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