In 2019, Iceland's birth and death figures were 12 and 7
per thousand respectively, which gives a natural population
growth of 0.5 percent. The average life expectancy in the
country (81 years for men and 84 years for women) is among
the highest in the world.
Countryaah data, Iceland is very sparsely populated (3 residents per km
2) while the population is concentrated along the
coasts, especially to the southwestern part of the main
island. In 2014, the capital Reykjavik had 127,220
residents. In the metropolitan area, which also includes the
suburbs of Kópavogur and Hafnarfjörđur, there were 225 210
persons at the same time, which corresponds to just over 60
percent of the country's total population.
Iceland's fourth largest city, Akureyri (18,860
residents), is located on the north coast. Urbanization has
been relatively rapid, and in 2017, 94 percent of the
residents lived in the country's 58 urban areas.
The official language is Icelandic. For historical
reasons, Danish has a favored position in compulsory school,
and "Scandinavian" is spoken by many Icelanders. However,
English is the foreign language most people speak, and
Polish is the largest minority language.
For pre-Christian religion in Iceland, see ancient Nordic
religion. Already during the 8th century Irish monks settled
in Iceland, but their influence was of short duration. At
the end of the 9th century, Iceland was reached by a Saxon
mission, and at Allting about 1000, Christianity was adopted
as Iceland's religion with the proviso that the older
religion would be allowed during a transitional phase. The
ancient Nordic mythology then lived on as cultural goods.
The position of the church was strengthened through the
establishment of two bishopric seats, Skálholt (1056) and
Hólar (1106), but it was not until the end of the 13th
century that it gained as strong a position as in the other
Nordic countries. The Lutheran doctrine was forcibly
introduced by the Danes about 1540, and I. thus gained a
state church under the strong influence of the Danish king.
This aroused popular opposition, and the last Catholic
bishop, Jón Arason, gained the status of a people hero.
Translation of the New Testament came in 1540, the entire
Bible 1584. A lasting expression of Lutheran piety during
the following centuries became Hallgrímur Pétursson's
(1614-74) passion psalms ("Passion Psalms", 1666); they are
still widely read during fasting.
Around 1800, the two old bishopric seats were closed
down, and the Icelandic church has since become a single
diocese with a bishop's seat in Reykjavík. A priest's school
founded in 1847 was converted to a theological faculty in
1911. The constitutional law of 1874 introduced full
religious freedom, but it was stated that the
Evangelical-Lutheran church would have a special status in
relation to the state. During the 20th century, the
Icelandic church has increasingly become the character of a
folk church. The Danish model has been gradually removed
from the Danish model with a strong state influence towards
a model where the church's own organs have greater
influence. There is a central church board and since 1957 an
annual church meeting with representatives of both priests
and laymen. However, the state church ecosystem as such has
rarely been questioned.
In recent decades, the state church has lost members. In
2000, 89% of Icelanders were members; In 2012, this
proportion had decreased to 77%. A large part of the
remainder is connected to one of the Lutheran Free
Assemblies. Just over 3% belong to the Roman Catholic
Church, which has a bishop in Reykjavík. The popular revival
movements of the 19th century have had only a minor impact.
Influences from the Danish and Norwegian internal mission
movements have later found space within the national church;
KFUM and KFUK, which here represent a fairly conservative
Christian interpretation, have had lasting influence in
parts of both the clergy and the active play people. The
peculiarity of Iceland is the popular foundation of
As part of the general youth protest during the 1970s, an
Asa society was formed in 1972, which meant to represent the
pre-Christian beliefs. The group gained a position as an
officially recognized religious community with, among other
things, marriages; however, the connection is limited.