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Growing shorter: Adult health habits influence how much we shrink with age
Date:4/1/2013

Even if you didn't eat your veggies or drink your milk as a child, your height is still in your hands, reveal new findings by economists from the University of Southern California, Harvard University and Peking University.

Using unique data from a new massive longitudinal survey of 17,708 adults beginning at age 45, the researchers show for the first time that lifestyle choices we make in adulthood and not just the hand we're dealt as children influence how tall we stand as we age.

"Had we only examined the correlations between measured height and health, we would have missed this important insight," said John Strauss, professor of economics at USC, and an investigator on a study published in the April 2013 issue of the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. "The evidence shows that it is not only early-life events that are associated with how we age, but health decisions in later life as well."

While prior work has looked for the connection between height and health both in childhood and adulthood the researchers are the first to examine height loss as we age. They show that regardless of your maximum height, the loss of height over time is also an important indicator for other health issues as we age.

For example, the research reveals an especially strong relationship between height loss and cognitive health. Those who had lost more height were also much more likely to perform poorly on standard tests of cognitive health such as short-term memory, ability to perform basic arithmetic and awareness of the date.

Among the socioeconomic factors that correlate to height loss, urban dwellers had much less height loss than those in rural areas, the researchers found, in a country where there has been significant migration to urban areas in the last few decades. In addition, having completed primary school, rather than being illiterate, is associated with 0.9 cm less height shrinkage in men a large diffe
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Contact: Suzanne Wu
suzanne.wu@usc.edu
213-740-0252
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert

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