The oldest population statistics for the village of Agios Ioannis are from 1821, when it had 353 inhabitants. In 1834 there were 40 families in Agios Ioannis and 48 in 1881. Before the Second World War Agios Ioannis was a village with about 150 inhabitants. It had about 45 households, three kafenions and a small store. And we were told – a lot of people, singing and dancing.
Between 1821 and 1971 the population of Agios Ioannis decreased by 81%. The main reason for population change was migration to the cities. Revolutions and wars had also been important factors. Local vendettas had also forced people out. Some moved to the nearest villages and some as far as North America. But the most important reasons for moving out of Sfakia have been work and marriage. Most people have gone to Chania, Rethymnon, Athens, Canada and U.S.A.
In January 1979 Agios Ioannis had 55 inhabitants between the age of 0 and 90 years, comprising 13 households; it was a village with a large group of young people, very few middle-aged, and a large proportion of people (especially women) over 60 years. In 1980 the distribution had already changed radically; there were now only 10 persons in the age group 10-19 years old, compared to 17 in 1979, and one person aged between 20 and 29, compared to five one year earlier.
The last time a woman married into Agios Ioannis was in 1973, and before that, in 1962. Only two families had small children and only one of the married women was under 30. The parents helped their children to shape a future outside the village, and they did not believe the village would survive another 10 years. Only one couple had an adult child living in Agios Ioannis. When someone got too old to make it on their own or when their spouse died, most people had to move and live with their children residing outside the village.
The local doctor visited Agios Ioannis about once every two weeks. He claimed that the people there were seldom seriously ill, and that his most important job was to check their blood pressure and tell them that he wished his health was as good as theirs.
Most of the people died old, and the women were especially long lived; more than 75% lived to be 70 years or more. The much higher life expectancy for women was probably because the men’s roles held more dangers. For women one of the greatest dangers was child-birth; for men it was life in the mountains and often long tours with the sheep and goats to summer pastures, and, of course, previously, vendettas. Life in Agios Ioannis seemed to be hard but healthy. If one could survive the first few years, one’s chances of reaching an age far above the average for the country were good.