An Odd Result on Height and Life Span from a Recent Epidemiological Study

The present consensus in the research community is that taller people have shorter life spans. If nothing else, more height means more cells and thus greater odds of a cancerous combination of mutations turning up. But given that taller people also exhibit a notably higher risk of numerous other age-related conditions, there is more to it than that. Given this context, the results from the recent study here are somewhat odd, finding that taller women have greater odds of survival in later life. I'd be inclined to write this off to an artifact in the study population or design until such time as other researchers replicate the results.

Previous research has looked at the associations between weight (BMI, body mass index), physical activity, and reaching old age, but most studies have combined both sexes, or focused exclusively on men. Women and men's lifespans differ, which may be influenced by factors such as hormones, genes, and/or lifestyle. To explore these differences further, the researchers analysed data from the Netherlands Cohort Study (NLCS), which included more than 120,000 men and women aged between 55 and 69 when it began in 1986. They wanted to see if there were any links between height, weight, leisure time physical activity, and the likelihood of reaching the age of 90, and if there were any differences between men and women.

Some 7807 participants (3646 men and 4161 women aged between 68 and 70) provided detailed information in 1986 on their current weight, height, weight when aged 20, and their leisure time physical activity. This included activities such as gardening, dog walking, DIY (home improvements), walking or cycling to work, and recreational sports, which were grouped into categories of daily quotas: less than 30 minutes; 30 to 60 minutes; and 90 minutes or more.Participants were then monitored until death or the age of 90, whichever came first.

Some 433 men (16.7%) and 944 women (34.4%) survived to the age of 90. Women who were still alive by this age were, on average taller, had weighed less at the start of the study, and had put on less weight since the age of 20 than those who were shorter and heavier. What's more, women who were more than 175 cm (5 feet 9 inches) in height were 31 per cent more likely to reach 90 than women less than 160 cm ( 5 feet 3 inches). No such associations were seen among the men.

When it came to physical activity levels, men who clocked up over 90 minutes a day were 39 per cent more likely to reach 90 than those who did less than 30 minutes. And every extra 30 minutes of daily physical activity they racked up was associated with a 5 per cent increase in their chances of turning 90. But this wasn't the case for women. Those who chalked up more than 30-60 minutes a day were 21 per cent more likely to reach 90 than those managing 30 minutes or less. But there seemed to be an optimal threshold for women: around 60 minutes a day was associated with the best chance of their celebrating a 90th birthday.



I think it is because tall women need to maintain a lower BMI than short women to attract a mate, conversely tall men do not experience the same differential pressure.

Posted by: JohnD at January 25th, 2019 11:54 AM

huh? Men like short, stocky women? Women like overweight tall guys?

Probably relates to childhood obesity/adiposity.
"...girls who experience menarche at younger ages have reduced adult height, greater BMI, and an increased risk of obesity during adulthood (2-8)."

Posted by: CD at January 25th, 2019 3:43 PM

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