Skip to content
Main menu hidden.

What's the weather got to do with it? - Infant mortality in Northern Sweden during the demographic transition

Research project Our project will investigate how seasonality and weather influenced the mortality of infants in northern Sweden between 1800 and 1950.

Infant mortality has been shown to vary by season, but the contribution of weather variations and social factors is unclear, particularly for pre-industrial societies in a subarctic environment. We will investigate how environmental determinants (seasonality and weather) were related to mortality in infants, and how cultural, social and economic factors shaped this relationship.

Head of project

Lena Karlsson
Other position, associate professor

Project overview

Project period:

2018-01-01 2021-12-31


Finansår , 2018, 2019, 2020

huvudman: Lena Karlsson, financiar: RJ, y2018: 1304, y2019: 1324, y2020: 1334,

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Arctic Centre at Umeå University, Centre for Demographic and Ageing Research (CEDAR), Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences

Research area

Demography, Public health and health care science, Sociology

Project description

Our study will highlight interactions of the natural and social environment affecting infant mortality and stillbirths in rural societies living under harsh conditions, and identify the most vulnerable groups. Given the unique historical data available, this project will contribute to the knowledge about long-term trends in climate vulnerability.

Understanding infant mortality and climate vulnerability: A study of northern Sweden's demographic transition

Infant mortality is seen as an indicator of the health and wealth of a population; it is highly sensitive to adverse living conditions and social inequality. We will study trends in climate vulnerability during the demographic transition and socio-economic development that took place in northern Sweden between the late 19th and early 20th century.

Main and secondary research questions

Our main question is:
(i) What is the association of seasonality (season and month of birth and death), temperature and precipitation (rain and snow) with infant mortality and stillbirths in Northern Sweden between 1800 and 1950?

Secondary questions are:
(ii) How did ethnicity, sex, and parental occupation modify climate vulnerability of infants?
(iii) Did climate vulnerability of infants change during the demographic transition?

Disentangling causal pathways

Combining vital data of populations with weather records, this project will disentangle the causal pathways between the natural environment, societal determinants and infant survival. It will throw light on vulnerability in populations sharing the same environment, but diverging by social, economic and cultural factors.

Impact of natural and social environment on infant survival

Our study can show how the youngest members of a society were affected by their natural and social environment during a critical time in Swedish development. The project will contribute to the knowledge base in Sweden regarding environmental determinants of infant mortality in previous centuries by showing local impacts of extreme weather conditions.

Offering insights across different societal contexts

While our findings obviously cannot be transferred directly to modern societies in low-, middle- and high-income countries (so-called “developed” and “developing” countries), they might function as eye-openers. We can learn about pathways to climate vulnerability in different contexts, to offer a fresh perspective from outside on the interplay between environmental-climatic and socio-cultural determinants of human wellbeing.



climate, infant mortality, demographic transition

Latest update: 2024-04-03