Your height in adult life significantly affects your quality
of life, with short people reporting worse physical and mental
health than people of normal height. This large, peer reviewed
study, which appears in Clinical Endocrinology, shows that
adult height is linked to how good a person thinks their health
is. Short people judge their state of health to be significantly
lower than their normal height peers do.
The data for this study came from the 2003 Health Survey
for England, carried out by the UK Department of Health(1).
In this survey, participants filled out a health-related quality
of life (HRQoL) questionnaire and a nurse measured their height.
Researchers, led by Senior Health Economist Torsten Christensen
at Novo Nordisk A/S in Denmark, used this data to assess the
relationship between height and HRQoL. A person's health-related
quality of life refers to their perceived physical and mental
health over time. The questionnaire does not measure how good
a person's health actually is; it measures how good a person
thinks their health is. The questionnaire examined five areas
of well-being: mobility, self-care, usual activities, pain/discomfort,
and anxiety/depression. The researchers controlled the results
in the study for the effects of other well-known indicators
of HRQoL such as age, gender, body weight, long-standing illness
and social class. In total, this study used the results from
14 416 respondents.
People in the shortest height category (men shorter than
162 cm and women shorter than 151 cm) reported they experience
significantly lower HRQoL than people of normal height. Additionally,
the shorter you are, the more pronounced this effect becomes.
This means that a small increase in height has a much larger
positive effect on a short person than it does on a person
of normal height. The results predict that people who are
of short stature could increase their HRQoL by 6.1% if their
height was increased by 7 cm for men and 6 cm for women. This
6.1% difference in HRQoL is equivalent to the HRQoL benefits
of losing 10-15 kg for an obese person (with a BMI greater
Short height in adult life can either be due to normal development
or caused by a number of diseases such as growth hormone deficiency
or Turner syndrome. Treatment with growth hormone to children
with these conditions can increase their final adult height
by approximately 4-10 cm depending on the underlying cause(3).
Previous studies have not clearly established the impact of
this increase in height upon patients' HRQoL. The results
from this study show that any small increase to the height
of short people can have a large positive impact upon how
good they perceive their health to be when adult. HRQoL data
combine physiological, physical and social well-being into
one outcome measure. The results from this study may also
be useful for health economic assessments (such as those used
by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence) for calculating
the benefits of treatments for short stature.
Researcher Torsten Christensen said:
"We know that people who are short experience more difficulties
in areas of their life such as education, employment and relationships
than people of normal height. However, the relationship between
height and psychosocial well-being is not well understood.
Using this large and nationally representative sample of the
UK population, we found shorter people report that they experience
lower physical and mental well-being than taller people do.
Our results also indicate that the shorter someone is, the
stronger this relationship becomes. For example, an increase
in height of 3 cm would have a positive impact on the health
related quality of life of a short person, whereas the effect
of an extra 3 cm would be negligible for a person of normal
Although our study does not show that short height directly
causes a reduction in physical and mental health, it does
indicate that short people are more likely to feel that they
experience a lower health-related quality of life. However,
further research is now needed to clarify the precise relationship
between changes in height and health-related quality of life."