Who Lives Longer: Tall or Short People?

Though many cultures value height, there may be good reason to hope that you won't grow tall. Studies based on millions of lives seem to suggest that shorter people tend to outlive their taller counterparts. Not only do they have lower death rates, but they tend to have fewer diet-related chronic diseases. Studies and experiments on animals show similar results.

More about height and lifespans:

  • Some studies suggest that the very rare Methuselah gene may be the reason for long life for some people. People with this gene aren't as sensitive to IGF-1, a growth-encouraging hormone. As a result, these people tend to be shorter. They also tend to live longer. Women are even more susceptible to the hormone which may support the reason why there are generally more female centenarians than men.

  • Japanese women have the longest lifespan of any group in the world — 86 years, on average. Though Japanese women are not, on average, the shortest in the world (that distinction belongs to Bolivian women who are about 4 feet 2 inches (1.4 meters) tall on average), they are one of the shortest at about 5 feet 2 inches (1.6 meters), on average.

  • In general, people are getting taller and living longer: the average height of men today is a few inches taller than two hundred years ago, while their lifespan averages have doubled. Much of this is likely attributable to improvements in public health including access to medical care and healthier diets.

  • Studies show that taller people make more money and have higher self-esteem than shorter people.

More Info: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

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Discussion Comments


Most centenarians are short.In Okinawa, 100 year old males average about 5' adjusted for shrinkage with age.Centenarian studies from Cuba, Italy, Sicily, Hungary, and the US have found centenarians average from 5'2" to 5'5". I know of no systematic study that has found a centenarian population that average 6' adjusted for shrinkage with age. However, a number of tall individuals do reach 100 years of age.


You know, I've never noticed how short or tall those people who live to be over a hundred years old are. When I see them on the news or in the paper, they are usually sitting down, often in a wheelchair.

Their heights are never mentioned. Now, I'm curious! I wish that news reporters would start telling how tall they are.

I wonder how long people of average height tend to live? Do they have shorter or longer lifespans than tall or short people?

I just wonder how many people in their nineties or hundreds are of average height. I am average height for a woman, so I'd like to know how this might affect my chances of living past seventy-something.


@Post no. 3: Your daughter does not have to worry about being less successful. That is not what the article says. Also, statistics aren't law and likelihoods aren't fate. Your daughter is an individual and may well be both healthy and long lived, just as there are successful short people out there. People will always react to outliers; it is almost impossible to get past. Just ask Warwick Davies.

But their reaction really is no indication of her worth and you and she must be aware that height is prized in our society? Many people who react to the unusual mean no harm. Many of the startled looks she gets may actually be from people who admire your daughter's height. Just think of all the great professions that will be open to her, which are not open to a 5'2" person like me.

I can't help but wonder where you live if "society" is giving her adverse reactions to her height. Most societies are geared towards tall people. I know individual morons will gape and look at anything out of the usual, but “society” does nothing but validate tall people. I know sticking out, even in a positive way, stinks to a certain kind of sensibility and some kids internalize it and interpret it as a bad thing, but there is really no reason to lament being tall, just as there is no reason to lament being short (unless you really, really wanted to be a fire fighter). Our diversity is one of the evolutionary strengths of humans and life is so much less impractical to a tall person. I often go home from the grocery store without things I planned to buy because I get tired of asking people to get them down from shelves for me. My eating habits are curbed by what is on the lower shelves. I can't use the two top shelves in my kitchen cupboards for things I use often and I have to keep a stool in the kitchen. On the other hand, I fit comfortably into almost any seat on any form of public transport and I keep limber, despite my age, by having to climb things all the time. There are pros and cons to everything.

Oh, and personally, I believe self esteem is overrated as predictor of anything. Recent studies show that while self esteem has risen in undergraduates, their results have not increased - they may actually have fallen slightly - along with their self esteem, and they do not do better after graduating than people did fifty years ago when the average self reported self esteem was much lower. There seems to be no great correlation between high self esteem and performing well.


I've always heard that women live longer than men, on average. Maybe it's because we are shorter than they are, generally speaking.

I'm 5'5” and my husband is 6'1”. However, he may just outlive me, because he is seven years younger than I.

There are so many factors that come into play in every situation, though. I have a kidney disease that may kill me when I'm older, but he is overweight and may have problems with that before I'm ready to check out.


I had no idea that Bolivian women were so short! I have seen a lot of Japanese women who were relatively short, though. I had no idea that this could affect their lifespan.


It's strange to me that tall people aren't the ones who live longer. If they tend to have more self-esteem and make more money, you would think that this sense of self-worth would be enough to extend their lifespans.

I suppose it is more about genetics than about quality of life, at least in the mental sense. If you don't have good genes, you will be more apt to develop physical problems.


I'm female and about 5'8 and already have some health problems. Oh lovely, just another one to add to the list! *rolling eyes*


The doubling of the life span is correct mathematically but it fails to point out that two hundred years ago you had an almost equal chance of reaching 70 years as you do now if you made it to your fifth birthday. Modern "progress" is over rated.


My daughter is very tall and hates it. She feels awkward and paranoid that people are staring at her, as if she doesn't have enough to worry about that now she will live not live as long and not be as successful as her shorter counterparts. I hope to goodness she doesn't see studies like this. It would only make her feel less of a person. Her family tries to give her the confidence but it's the reaction from public and society that makes her feel inadequate.

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