Certain Short Men Face Increased Risk Of Dementia (But If It's Genetic, Don't Worry)

short guys
More bad news for short guys. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

The vertically challenged proportion of the population may not want to read this article. A recent study from Edinburgh University in Scotland has provided evidence suggesting that shorter individuals are more likely to die from dementia. While this finding rings true for both sexes, it was most apparent in men under 5-foot-6. While scientists aren’t completely clear on the origins of this link between height and dementia, they are pretty sure it has environmental and not genetic roots.

Unfortunately, yet another study has proven that short guys just can’t get a break. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that men who were 5-foot-5 were more than 50 percent more likely to develop and die from dementia than those who were 5-foot-8 or taller, The Telegraph reported. The study followed 220,000 men and women across Britain, documenting both their stature, lifetime, and cause of death. Similar results were found for female participants in the study, but according to lead author Dr. Tom Russ of the University of Edinburgh’s College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, “this association was stronger in men than it was in women.”

Results showed that, for men, a gap of 2.8 inches between height was associated with a 24-percent increase in risk of developing dementia. For example, a man who is 6 feet or taller would be around 24 percent less likely to die from the disease than a man who is 5-foot-9. In women, a gap of 2.6 inches in height only raised the risk by 13 percent, but this still means that a woman who is 5-foot-1 is 35 percent more likely to die from dementia than a woman who is 5-foot-4.

Although there seems to be an apparent link between size and likeliness to succumb to dementia, the researchers believe that short height is simply a side effect of more dangerous health consequences. “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.

While men who owe their short stature to genes rather than traumatic early life experiences are probably exempt from this height/dementia association, there is no denying that small size in men is tied to a nearly unshakable stigma. Thankfully, science has short men’s back, with data showing that while small men may not be a female’s first choice in a mate, if chosen, they are likely to make better partners than taller men, Medical Daily reported. Also, while the link between small statures isn’t genetic, the link between small stature and longevity is. A recent U.S. study found that the gene responsible for shortness in men may also help them live longer lives.

Source: Batty D, Russ TC, Kivimaki M, Starr JM, Stamatakis E. Height in relation to dementia death: individual participant meta-analysis of 18 UK prospective cohort studies. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 2014.

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