The Cost of Being Tall is a Shorter Life Expectancy

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.



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

Posted by: Nathan Voodoo at August 1st, 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 3rd, 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 20th, 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 31st, 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 1st, 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 12th, 2014 12:37 PM

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

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

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

Posted by: no one at March 8th, 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 4th, 2014 1:47 AM

It saddens me too. I'm 6'7". Our only choice is to accept it and try to leave a positive mark on the world!

Posted by: BJ at May 15th, 2014 11:59 AM

Depends on average height,here in india the best height for men is 5 7 and 5 2 for women.

Posted by: Vivek narain at June 6th, 2014 3:11 AM


You were still illiterate in 5th grade? Did you come from a country without a public education system?

Having limited grammar skills must make you feel important but remember you can't drag someone down unless you are beneath them already. Truly educated people don't react in such a manner. Uneducated people who read books and blogs and think they are smart but don't need engineering degrees act in such a manner.

Yours truly,

Big insecure fish in tiny a little pond.

Posted by: Fish at June 27th, 2014 11:32 AM

I'm tall ... 6'3" ... I will die

Posted by: Frog at October 17th, 2014 8:45 AM

I feel as though I have received something after years of the bullying by big, fat, loud mouth people who feel they can push around someone for being only 5 feet tall.
With all the GMOs who know how is affecting height.

Posted by: A L at December 16th, 2014 6:18 AM

I'm 28, and 6'1".. so i will die when i'm about 78! As is i dont want to live to 100!

Who wants to live to a 100 anyway?

Posted by: Abrus Precatorius at April 12th, 2015 4:20 PM

I'm male, 5'6. Short but I actually hope to live past 100. 150 if possible. I want to see great grand-kids and maybe great-great grand kids. The family elder and everyone will ask me what it was like in the 1900s.

Posted by: Mmar at May 21st, 2015 8:48 PM

My conclusions from this are that taller people should watch their blood pressure and avoid various cancer-inducing things.

Posted by: Ian W. at June 8th, 2015 7:20 PM

All people who make it to lile their 90's never make an impact on the world at that age anyway. So make an impact and be happy while you are young instead of worrying about dying at an old age

Posted by: Ryan at June 21st, 2015 6:08 AM

Moses Malone, the basketball great (A top-10 player in the NBA), died recently (9-13-15) of heart failure at the age of 60, and he was 6'10" in height. The information on this website seems to be accurate!

Posted by: Mary Ann at September 17th, 2015 11:29 AM

I don't feel that bad.. and I'm 6ft5

Posted by: Ibrahim at October 12th, 2015 3:26 PM

Not always. There is a man at my church who will be turning 103 this year. He is 6'3.

Posted by: Meade at October 25th, 2015 10:31 AM

Always been the tallest, just recently quit growing last year and I'm 6'8. I'm 20 and in construction and already feeling my body ache

Posted by: Cam at February 14th, 2016 9:26 AM

I was 6'7 @ 13 years old and was always spraining my ankles and back. Now I am 56 years old and think my body is about done with working so hard. I know I won't live very much longer. So I am living like a bum and not work and enjoy the time I have left.

Posted by: Larry at March 25th, 2016 9:15 AM

Yeah kinda hate it since I'm 5 Ft 2. I'd like to die before sixty. Sucks I'm gonna live longer

Posted by: barb at July 17th, 2016 4:19 AM

5'7. I love being this height tbh, about 20% of guys are this height and the rest are just a little taller and 20% are supertall.

Don't mind it one bit, the world was made for teenagers as I always say. Can stretch out on beds, couches without my legs hanging limp over the edge. I feel like a stealthy badass.

I also have very good genes... all my great grandparents lived well into their 80s (except for one who drank like a fish... died at ~70). I don't mind seeing the late 21st century :) even possibly the 22nd century! How cool would that be !

People obsess about height. Height is only useful for finding your car in the parking lot or finding your friend in a crowd and manual labor jobs. It helps a little in the dating game, probably because (girls can see your face from a mile away) source: 6'6 friend.

Posted by: Ike at October 24th, 2016 4:03 PM

6'8" here

Posted by: Brockton Hankins at September 25th, 2017 2:18 AM

I had an older relative who was 6'4", played a lot of basketball in rec-leagues until he was about 50. He died last year at 102.7.

Posted by: Biotechy at October 2nd, 2017 10:49 AM

Thank God i will see 2100 at my 5'9. I will never go the gym to avoid stressing out my heart. I will just be jogging daily, swimming, and eating healthy.

Posted by: Gabriel at January 26th, 2019 11:23 AM

I'm going to schedule an operation and have my legs shortened below the knees. This or have my head frozen. Not sure which yet.

Posted by: bob at January 30th, 2019 6:48 AM


Posted by: Shorty at January 25th, 2020 12:54 PM

I disagree with this article. I continue to believe that taller whites Norwegians and swedish people live longer lives due to better life circumstances such as environment and less stress better nutrition which allows for better hygiene health including better and healthier genes/DNA. Would like more numbers scientific statistics and ratios, demographics and real life examples voices being heard stories of athletes, significant others and not so significant others in regards to lifespan and fighting aging.

Posted by: Andrea Stafford at February 20th, 2021 3:04 AM
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