Shorter individuals have an increased risk of dying from dementia, according to a new study from Edinburgh University in Scotland. The researchers found this was true for both men and women, but applied particularly to men under 5-foot-6. While they were not sure what causes the link between height and dementia, they believe it is environmental factors and not genetic ones.
For the study, researchers followed 220,000 men and women across Britain, documenting both their stature, lifetime, and cause of death. Lead author Dr. Tom Russ of the University of Edinburgh’s College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, found men who were 5-foot-5 were 50 percent more likely to develop and die from dementia than those who were 5-foot-8 or taller. Similar results were found in women, but “this association was stronger in men than it was in women,” said Russ.
A gap of 2.8 inches between heights was associated with a 24-percent increase in risk of developing dementia, so a man who was taller than 6 feet had a 24 percent less chance of developing dementia. For women, a gap of 2.6 inches in height only raised the risk by 13 percent. “Short height in itself, of course, does not ‘cause’ dementia. Rather, height captures a number of early life factors, including early-life illness, adversity, poor nutrition, and psychosocial stress, and so allows us to examine the effect of these factors on dementia more closely,” said co-author Dr. David Batty, of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London.