When it comes to health and longevity, many assume that being tall has its advantages. However, recent studies have raised questions about this belief, suggesting that height may not necessarily be a determining factor in living a long life. This article explores the evidence surrounding the lifespan of shorter individuals and uncovers intriguing findings that challenge conventional assumptions. Join us as we delve into the science, theories, height-related complications, and the overall implications of these studies. Discover the truth behind the meme: “How long do short people live for?”
The Science Behind Shorter People Living Longer
Multiple studies have indicated a potential correlation between height and mortality risk. These findings shed light on the fascinating relationship between height and lifespan.
Death Rates Among Italian Soldiers
A longitudinal study of Italian military personnel discovered that individuals under 161.1 cm (approx. 5’3″) had a longer life expectancy compared to those over that height. The study examined death rates among men born between 1866 and 1915 in the same Italian village. Notably, the average height for men in the village during that time was around 5’2″. The researchers found that taller men were expected to live approximately two years less than their shorter counterparts at the age of 70. However, it is crucial to note that variables such as weight and BMI were not considered in this study.
Longevity of Former Basketball Players
In a study conducted in 2017 on height and lifespan among former professional basketball players, it was discovered that larger body size was associated with reduced longevity. The study analyzed the height and lifespan of 3,901 living and deceased basketball players who played between 1946 and 2010. On average, these players had a height of 197.78 cm (approx. 6’5″). The tallest players in the top 5 percent for height were found to have a shorter lifespan compared to the shortest players in the bottom 5 percent, with the exception of those born between 1941 and 1950. The researchers emphasized that genotype variations, socioeconomic factors, medical care, weight, education, nutrition, exercise, and smoking are all important factors that also contribute to lifespan.
The FOX03 Gene
The FOX03 gene has been the subject of an observational study involving 8,003 American men of Japanese descent. This gene has consistently been linked to longevity in human and animal studies, and it is also associated with body size. The study revealed that men who were 5’2″ or shorter were more likely to have a protective form of the FOX03 gene, leading to longer lifespans. On the other hand, men over 5’4″ had shorter lifespans. Shorter men were also found to have a lower incidence of cancer and lower fasting insulin levels. The FOX03 gene plays a significant role in the insulin/IGF-1 signaling pathway.
While the aforementioned studies provide intriguing insights, the underlying reasons behind shorter people living longer are not yet fully understood. Several theories have been proposed, including:
- Caloric Restriction: Eating less may favor longer life for shorter individuals. Taller people tend to have bigger bones and larger internal organs, requiring a larger daily caloric intake for optimal function.
- Fewer Cells: Shorter bodies generally have fewer cells compared to taller bodies. This may result in shorter individuals having less exposure and impact from free radicals and carcinogens.
- Cell Replication: Taller people can have a significantly higher number of cells than shorter people, leading to a higher frequency of cell replications. As individuals age, taller people may experience a shortage of replacement cells to repair tissue and organ damage.
Height has also been associated with certain health complications. Let’s explore some of these findings:
Cancer and All-Cause Death
A study conducted in 2016 on American men and women revealed a connection between height and cancer risk, as well as death from all causes. The study analyzed death certificate data for 14,440 men and 16,390 women aged 25 and above. The researchers found that every additional inch in height resulted in a 2.2 percent higher risk of death from all causes for men and a 2.5 percent higher risk for women. Similarly, an extra inch in height correlated with a 7.1 percent higher risk of death from cancer in men and a 5.7 percent higher risk in women. The researchers accounted for education level and birthdays, concluding that these findings indicated improved accessibility to excellent medical care for conditions other than cancer.
Cancer Risk Among Post-Menopausal Women
A 2013 study investigated the association between cancer risk and height among 144,701 postmenopausal women. It discovered a positive correlation between height and the likelihood of developing various types of cancer, including thyroid, breast, colon, and ovarian cancers. Although the impact of height on cancer acquisition was modest, it was statistically significant. The researchers attempted to adjust for weight and body mass index while analyzing data from women without a prior history of cancer. Other factors such as smoking rates, alcohol intake, education level, ethnicity, income level, oral contraceptive and hormone therapy use, and cancer screening rates were also considered.
Venous Thromboembolism (VTE)
Multiple studies have found a higher recurrence rate of VTE in taller women compared to those of shorter stature. This observation could potentially be attributed to longer legs and veins, which provide an increased opportunity for thrombus formation. Other risk factors for VTE include age, obesity, and long-term hospitalizations.
What It Means for Tall and Short People
Although height may have some influence on longevity, it is essential to understand that many factors contribute to an individual’s lifespan. Taller individuals are not necessarily destined for shorter lives, nor are shorter individuals guaranteed longer lives. Lifestyle choices play a crucial role in disease prevention and overall longevity. Consider the following steps to improve your health and potentially increase your lifespan:
- Quit smoking or vaping.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Engage in regular exercise.
- Adopt a nutrient-rich and antioxidant-packed diet.
- Reduce sugar, fast food, and processed food intake.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Manage stress effectively.
- Reside in an area with less pollution.
Multiple studies have presented compelling evidence suggesting a correlation between height and longevity. Shorter individuals have been found to exhibit resistance to certain diseases, such as cancer, and have longer lifespans. However, it is important to note that these studies are not yet conclusive. Regardless of your height, making positive lifestyle choices remains the best strategy to promote a healthy and fulfilling life. So, focus on healthy habits and embrace longevity, irrespective of your stature!