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Last updated August 6, 2016 (originally published November 1, 2015)
By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist   

"Short people got no reason.... " goes the old Randy
Newman song. But no reason to what --- worry? Rejoice?
If you are unusually short or tall you’ve probably heard all
the jokes going. But are there health advantages to being a
giant? Or health benefits for the petite ones among us? Is
short sweet for your health? Is it a tall story that towering
people live longer? We’ve got the lowdown on the height

Did You Know Americans are No Longer the Tallest in the

Figures show that during the 18th and 19th centuries,
America had the tallest people on the planet but not today.

The tallest people, on average, now live in the Netherlands.
The average height of a Dutch man is 6 feet and the
average height of  a Dutch woman is 5 feet 6.5 inches. US
men are on average 5 feet 9 inches tall and US women are
nearly 5 feet 4 inches tall.

Over the past century, Dutch men have increased by 20
centimeters in average height, while American men have
increased in average height by 5 centimeters.

The shortest people in the world, on the other hand, live in
Bolivia, the Philippines, India, and Indonesia.

…And Your Height Actually Changes During the Day?

You’re actually tallest when you wake up, and you get
shorter as the day goes on – up to 1cm shorter by the time
you go to bed. This is because your spine gets compressed
when you are upright during the day, and you get the
length in your spine back when you lie down at night.
(Read more about
how to counteract spinal compression.)

Your Height and Your Health

Height has long been used as a marker for overall health,
particularly in developing countries. Researcher S.V.
Subramanian of the Harvard School of Public Health says
“height is a useful and stable marker of cumulative health.
It is an indicator of the nutritional environment a person
was exposed to during childhood.”

While around 60 to 80 percent of your height is set by your
genes, the rest of the equation is defined by childhood
nutrition and other environmental factors. Therefore,
people who grow to be shorter than the average have in
many cases been disadvantaged by their diet while growing

But does this mean that short people are automatically less
healthy, and more at risk of chronic disease? It’s not as
simple as that.

We looked at the different reasons why short people gain
health benefits, while tall people also pick up advantages,

Tall Women Are at Greater Risk of Cancer

Women who are 5 foot 10 inches are around 30 to 40
percent more likely than women who are 5 foot 2 inches to
develop kidney, breast, thyroid, colon, rectum, and
melanoma cancers according to a 2013 study from the
Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. A
2011 study from the University of Oxford, UK shows that
cancer risk increases with increasing height, for most types
of cancer.

Taller women have larger organs containing a greater
number of cells, scientists say, and that makes it more likely
that these cells will develop mutations. (Read more about
foods that fight cancer.)

If You’re Short You Have a Lower Risk of Blood Clots

When you’re 5 foot 2 inches or shorter, and you are a
normal weight, your risk of
blood clots drops, according to
a 2011 study from the University of Tromso in Norway.

Blood needs to be pumped a longer distance in taller
people, which could reduce blood flow and increase the
risk of a clot. But short people beware – you’ve got to keep
to a normal weight to retain the advantage.

Short Women May Have Very Long Lives

The gene linked to living longer than 90 years is also linked
to short stature in women, according to a 2008 study from
the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

The researchers discovered that a gene mutation that
appeared to impede insulin-like growth factor from
working also seemed to extend human lifespan. (Read
more about  
average lifespan ranked by country.)

Tall Women Have a Lower Heart Disease Risk

If you’re taller, your heart is safer according to recent
research. A 2015 study from the University of Leicester in
the UK says women who are 5 foot 8 inches are 28 percent
less likely to suffer from heart disease than women who
measure 5 foot 3 inches.

As a matter of fact, the researchers say that for every two-
and-a-half inches taller you are than someone else of the
same sex, your risk of contracting
heart disease lowers by
around 14 percent.

Taller People Are Less Likely to Die From Dementia

And another benefit associated with being tall: if you are 5
foot 7 inches and a woman, you are less likely (by 50
percent) to die from
dementia than a woman who is 5 foot
one inch, according to a 2015 study from the University of
Edinburgh's College of Medicine in the UK.

No one is really sure why this link should exist but scientists
speculate that the environmental factors that contribute to
smaller stature are those that affect the development of
dementia in later life.

Pregnancy is Easier When You Are Tall

A 2014 study from the City University of New York says
moms-to-be who are above 5 foot 6 inches are 59 percent
less likely to suffer from gestational diabetes – and the
potential complications this brings – than women who are 5
foot 2 inches tall.

This may be a genetic issue – certain genes that are related
to height could also have an influence on tolerance to

And a 2006 study from Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University,
Bangkok, Thailand shows that if you are tall or average
sized, you are less likely to have to have a C-section.

Shorter Women Have an Increased Risk of Diabetes

Short women are also at greater risk of diabetes, according
to experts. A 2012 study from Isfahan University of Medical
Sciences, Isfahan, Iran demonstrates that shorter women
have a greater chance of developing
Type 2 diabetes.

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