STUDY OBJECTIVE: The purpose of the study was to examine adult body height as an indicator of general health. DESIGN: The study was a survey of a randomly selected sample of the adult Swedish population obtained by the Swedish National Central Bureau of Statistics. PARTICIPANTS: The sample studied was identified in 1980-81 and comprised 14,757 persons aged 16-74. Of these, 12,695 (86%) consented to interview. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Information was obtained on adult height, socioeconomic status in childhood and adult life, self perceived health, self reported longstanding illness, and mortality during a six year follow up. The numbers of people in three height groups who considered their general health as bad, who reported any longstanding illness or who died during the follow up were compared with the expected numbers in the same groups. The number of persons with reduced health and the number of deaths was larger than expected in the shortest height group. The excess risk of dying in the shortest group (about 20% higher compared to the tallest group) was reduced but not eliminated when present and childhood socioeconomic group was taken into account. Coronary heart disease mortality in particular was linked to height. The shortest group of men and women reported the largest proportion with bad general health and longstanding illness. For the latter the differences between height groups disappeared after controlling for present socioeconomic status. CONCLUSIONS: There is a detectable excess risk of morbidity and mortality from being short. Assuming that the childhood environment is an important determinant of adult stature it is also important for adult health.
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