The Cost of Being Tall is a Shorter Life Expectancy
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This popular science piece outlines some of the evidence for greater height to come with a penalty to longevity. I believe that the most plausible contribution to this effect has to do with growth hormone metabolism, given the degree to which it is linked to longevity in laboratory animals. Broadly speaking less growth hormone means a longer life in species such as mice. Larger individuals with more growth hormone accumulate damage and dysfunction at a faster pace in all areas: they age more rapidly.

One of the goals for future medicine is to make all such correlations in long term health irrelevant. Advanced medical technology, sufficient to repair the causes of aging, will sweep away the effects of differences in genetics and circumstances. This is something to look forward, as with suitable levels of funding and support the first of these new therapies of rejuvenation might be developed and rolled out by the late 2030s.

Physicians and epidemiologists began studying the link between height and longevity more than a century ago. Early researchers believed that tall people lived longer, [but] in fact in the early 20th century height was [a] reflection of better nutrition and hygiene, which increased longevity. Once the studies were limited to otherwise homogeneous populations, a consensus emerged that short people are longer-lived.

Among Sardinian soldiers who reach the age of 70, for example, those below approximately 5-foot-4 live two years longer than their taller brothers-in-arms. A study of more than 2,600 elite Finnish athletes showed that cross-country skiers were 6 inches shorter and lived nearly seven years longer than basketball players. Average height in European countries closely correlates to the rate of death from heart disease. Swedes and Norwegians, who average about 5-foot-10, have more than twice as many cardiac deaths per 100,000 as the Spaniards and Portuguese, who have an average height just north of 5-foot-5. Tall people rarely live exceptionally long lives. Japanese people who reach 100 are 4 inches shorter, on average, than those who are 75. The countries in the taller half of Europe have 48 centenarians per million, compared to 77 per million in the shorter half of the continent.

Setting aside simple mortality, individual diseases are also more common among tall people. American women above 5-foot-6 suffer recurrent blood clots at a higher rate. Among civil servants in London, taller people have been shown to suffer from more respiratory and cardiovascular illness. And then there's cancer. Height is associated with greater risk for most kinds of cancer, except for smoking-induced malignancies.

Unlike intelligence, which has a merely coincidental relationship with height, there are plausible biological explanations for why short people live longer. Researchers have found that the lungs of taller people don't function as efficiently, relative to their bodies' demands, as those of short people. Explanations for the link between height and other disorders are slightly more speculative, but largely credible. Tall people have more cells, which may increase the chances that some of them will mutate and lead to cancer. The hormones involved in rapid growth may also play a role in cancer development. It's even possible that the foods that lead to fast growth during childhood may increase the likelihood that a person will eventually develop cancer. The link between height and clots probably has to do with the length and weight of the columns of blood that travel between the heart and the body's extremities.

Link: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/07/height_and_longevity_the_research_is_clear_being_tall_is_hazardous_to_your.html

Comments

Hmmm... I don't feel so bad about only being 5'11" now.

Posted by: Nathan Voodoo at August 1, 2013 7:20 AM

Ahah oh well, im still glad im 6ft2, still want to be taller, being small would suck

Posted by: jerome at November 3, 2013 2:18 PM

Well I'd still trade 2 years of my lifespan to be tall. When you're 80 it doesn't matter anymore anyway, so I'd rather be tall in my 15-50 and live 2 years less than to be short all my life and have two more years of dementia :(

Posted by: Marc at December 20, 2013 11:18 PM

my husband Kensinger was 33 years old 6 feet 9 inches and five years ago died for no reason he was a very active very healthy man never sick completely sober for 7 years and he has cause of death unknown on his death certificate the last corner I spoke with was about 3 years ago and he explained to me how tall being such an active and healthy person talking to a guide for no reason and the brain movies at a certain he's the body of the other pain eventually they just can't meet up together and then crash

Posted by: kristy Stanger at December 31, 2013 11:17 AM

Now I'm totally depressed, I'm 5''6 and so are my girls, with a father of 6'2 I'm not feeling so good about living into our 90's and watching the grand kids grow up.

Posted by: Splash63 at January 1, 2014 2:24 AM

Well no reason to moan about being 4ft 11.5. Have to say all the women in my Mom's side of the family have so far lived above 90 and they were all under 5ft 2.

Posted by: sue at January 12, 2014 12:37 PM

wow im 14 and 6 foot 4, yup i am very tall

Posted by: tyler at January 25, 2014 8:47 AM

I am 7'3" and still growing. this might be me.

Posted by: no one at March 8, 2014 5:44 PM

Lol Kristy... try being making coherent sentences by using punctuation. You sound like an illiterate 5th grader.

Posted by: Jeremy at April 4, 2014 1:47 AM
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