Height, wealth, and health: an overview with new data from three longitudinal studies

Batty, G. David, Shipley, Martin J., Gunnell, David, Huxley, Rachel, Kivimaki, Mika, Woodward, Mark, Lee, Crystal Man Ying and Smith, George Davey (2009) Height, wealth, and health: an overview with new data from three longitudinal studies. Economics and Human Biology, 7 2: 137-152. doi:10.1016/j.ehb.2009.06.004

Author Batty, G. David
Shipley, Martin J.
Gunnell, David
Huxley, Rachel
Kivimaki, Mika
Woodward, Mark
Lee, Crystal Man Ying
Smith, George Davey
Title Height, wealth, and health: an overview with new data from three longitudinal studies
Journal name Economics and Human Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1570-677X
Publication date 2009-07
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1016/j.ehb.2009.06.004
Volume 7
Issue 2
Start page 137
End page 152
Total pages 16
Place of publication Amsterdam, Netherlands
Publisher Elsevier BV
Language eng
Abstract This overview, based on a literature review and new data from the three cohorts (Whitehall Studies I and II, and the Vietnam Experience Study), has four objectives: (a) to outline the major determinants of height, so providing an indication as to what exposures this characteristic may capture; (b) to summarise, by reviewing reports from large scale studies, the relation between adult height and a range of disease outcomes - both somatic and psychiatric - with particular emphasis on coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke; (c) to discuss why these relationships may exist, in particular, the role, if any, of socioeconomic position in explaining the apparent associations; and, finally (d) to outline future research directions in this field. The large majority of evidence for predictors of height, and its health consequences, comes from observational studies. While genetic predisposition is a major determinant of height, secular rises in childhood and adult stature across successive birth cohorts suggest that early life environment also has an important impact. Plausible non-genetic determinants of height include nutrition, illness, socioeconomic status, and psychosocial stress. Evidence for an association between height and a series of health endpoints is accumulating. Thus, shorter people appear to experience increased risk of CHD, and these associations appear to be independent of socioeconomic position and other potentially confounding variables. For stroke, and its sub-types, findings are less clear. In contrast to CHD, some cancers, such as carcinoma of the colorectum, prostate, breast (in women), central nervous system, skin, endometrium, thyroid and blood (haematopoietic) are more common in taller people. While height may be negatively related to the risk of completed suicide, conclusions about the links between stature and other health endpoints is problematic given the paucity of evidence, which should be addressed. Ultimately, for want of better data, investigators in this area have used height as a proxy for a range of pre-adult exposures. In future, research should aim to explore the predictive capacity of direct measures of diet, psychosocial stress, childhood chronic illness and so on, rather than focus on height or its components. The problem is that extended follow-up of child cohorts with such data are required, and studies which hold these data are not currently available, although several are either maturing to the point where they offer sufficient clinical outcomes to facilitate analyses or are in the advanced planning stage.
Keyword Height
Cardiovascular disease
Coronary heart disease
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Non-UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collection: School of Public Health Publications
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