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Is adult height related to the risk of having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease?
  1. K Ward,
  2. R Hubbard
  1. Division of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Richard Hubbard, Respiratory Medicine, Respiratory BRU, Clinical Sciences Building, City Hospital, Hucknall Road, Nottingham NG5 1PB, England; richard.hubbard{at}


Background A number of historical studies have suggested that early life deprivation increases the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in adult life, but whether this is still true now that living conditions have improved is not known. The aim of this study is to quantify the current association between adult height (a marker of socioeconomic status in early life) and COPD and to determine how this varies by age.

Methods We obtained data on 1 204 110 people (aged over 35 years old) from The Health Improvement Network—a general practice database. We used a cross-sectional analysis to quantify the odds of having doctor-diagnosed COPD in relation to height using logistic regression.

Results In our dataset, we had information on adult height for 1 025 662 (85%) people, and of these 2.7% had a diagnosis of COPD. The risk of having COPD decreased with each increase in quintile of height—OR 0.90 (95% CI 0.89 to 0.91). There was evidence of effect modification by age group such that this association was strongest in people aged 35 to 49 years (OR 0.86, 95% CI 0.82 to 0.89) and decreased progressively with age.

Conclusions The risk of developing COPD is still strongly associated with adult height. This association is strongest in the youngest age category, suggesting that early life experience will remain an important risk factor for COPD for some time to come and possibly that COPD related to early life deprivation is more severe and tends to present at a younger age.

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • epidemiology
  • early life events
  • adult height
  • respiratory epidem
  • social epidemiology

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  • Funding British Lung Foundation, 73-75 Goswell Road, London, EC1V 7ER.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Nottingham Research Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.