Being tall is associated with many social benefits, like appearing more attractive and earning more money, but how does height affect overall health?
Research has shown that tall people have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, but they also have a greater chance of getting certain cancers than shorter humans.
“Melanoma, thyroid, kidney, breast, colon, and rectum cancers, in particular, are strongly associated with height,” Geoffrey Kabat, PhD, senior epidemiologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, told Prevention. “Taller women tend to have larger organs and more cells, so the chance of developing mutations that lead to cancer is greater. It’s also possible that the hormones and growth factors that influence height also affect cancer risk.”
Standing tall or short can also be a factor in a person’s brain health. A woman who is 5’7″ is about 50 percent less likely to die from dementia than one who is 5’1″, according to preliminary research from the University of Edinburgh’s College of Medicine.
Additionally, women who are 5’8″ are 28 percent less likely to develop heart disease than those who are 5’3″. Short people are also more prone to diabetes.
“While being tall doesn’t give you a free pass to smoke and eat junk food, it offers some protection,” said Daniel Munoz, MD, an instructor of medicine in the division of cardiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
Meanwhile, people who are 5’2″ with relatively normal weight are three times less likely to get a blood clot. In one study, men 6 feet or taller were 2.6 times more likely to develop venous thromboembolism — a disease that includes both deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism — than men at least four inches shorter, according to US News. Also, men who were both tall and obese had more than five times the likelihood of developing the condition.
You’ve probably heard that tall people have shorter lifespans than vertically-challenged peers, but it’s difficult to prove if this is actually true.