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Abstract

Many papers have provided reasons for why women live longer than men. These include XX vs. XY chromosomes, sex hormones, and better care of their health. These factors certainly can affect male and female health but none has been proven to explain the actual difference that exists in life expectancy between the sexes. Another controversial factor commonly ignored is the size difference between men and women, but past research has shown that differences in male and female height and associated life expectancy are related by similar but inverse percentages (such as 8% taller and 9% shorter life expectancy). This paper provides additional evidence that supports early findings that shorter height is a major factor in explaining why women live longer. To test the inverse relation between height and life expectancy, a list of developed countries was used to compare height and life expectancy differences between men and women. The results showed men were 7.8% taller and had an 8.5% lower life expectancy. These results are similar to previous study findings in 1992, 2003, and 2009. They are also consistent with scores of studies showing shorter or smaller body size is related to greater longevity independent of sex.
SOCIALSCI JOURNAL Vol 4 (2019) ISSN: 2581-6624 http://purkh.com/index.php/tosocial
International Data Demonstrating the Inverse Height and Life Expectancy Between the Sexes
Thomas T. Samaras, Stephen M. Marson, J. Porter Lillis
1Longevity Researcher, Reventropy Associates. 11487 Madera Rosa Way, San Diego, California, 92124
2Professor Emeritus Sociology, University of North Carolina at Pembroke,
3Assistant Professor Sociology, University of North Carolina at Pembroke,
Samarastt@aol.com, smarson@nc.rr.com, John.Lillis@uncp.edu
Abstract
Many papers have provided reasons for why women live longer than men. These include XX vs. XY chromosomes,
sex hormones, and better care of their health. These factors certainly can affect male and female health but none
has been proven to explain the actual difference that exists in life expectancy between the sexes. Another
controversial factor commonly ignored is the size difference between men and women, but past research has
shown that differences in male and female height and associated life expectancy are related by similar but
inverse percentages (such as 8% taller and 9% shorter life expectancy). This paper provides additional evidence
that supports early findings that shorter height is a major factor in explaining why women live longer. To test
the inverse relation between height and life expectancy, a list of developed countries was used to compare
height and life expectancy differences between men and women. The results showed men were 7.8% taller and
had an 8.5% lower life expectancy. These results are similar to previous study findings in 1992, 2003, and 2009.
They are also consistent with scores of studies showing shorter or smaller body size is related to greater
longevity independent of sex.
Keywords: gender differences, life expectancy, height, mortality, longevity, body size, telomeres
1. Introduction
For decades the proposition that females live longer than males has been perpetuated in both the popular and
academic literature. These writings suggest that a simplified bivariate relationship is the cause of differences in
longevity. Over the decades, college students have accepted this impression from reading standard gerontology
textbooks. Many of these books report that females outlive their male counterparts without further elaboration.
Thus, college students accept an overly simplistic bivariate explanation of sex as the predominant independent
variable for longevity. To make matters more convoluted, we find an emotional attachment to this overly
simplistic bivariate model. This attachment has been found in informal conversations at conferences and office
meetings with professors of gerontology.
In the 1950’s the popular belief was that women lived longer than men because women did not face the stressed
dominated environment of the workplace. Madigan [1] produced an exceptionally well-controlled study with a
large sample demonstrating that the stress argument is false. He was able to g et well-documented data from
monasteries (monks) and convents (nuns) whose daily activities were virtually identical in terms of social -
psychological stress factors. Nuns lived significantly longer than monks. Madigan’s work forced researchers to
look at more complex causal featuressuch as height and weight.
In contrast to other disciplines, many biologists believe that within species, smaller individuals live longer [2].
Dogs are an excellent example supporting the biologist’s viewpoint. Canines have been studied extensively and
there is a strong inverse relationship between body size and longevity [3-5]. Mice [6], horses, and cows have
also shown this relationship although studies have been less formal for horses and cows. Promislow [7] and
Moore [8] also studied numerous species and found that larger males within species generally have higher death
rates and their mortality increases with increasing body mass. They also found that when the females within a
SOCIALSCI JOURNAL Vol 4 (2019) ISSN: 2581-6624 http://purkh.com/index.php/tosocial
species are larger than males, they have higher mortalities than smaller males. Ringsby [9] and Barrett [10]
programmed birds to reduce their length and body size and found these smaller birds lived longer. They
attributed this greater longevity to the longer telomeres of smaller individuals.
It is well established that larger species tend to live longer than small ones, and this fact promotes the
misconception that within species larger individuals live longer. However, this belief does not appear to be true.
For example, Bartke [11] described a number of mechanisms that explain why smaller size is related to greater
life expectancy (LE). He also noted why many scientists believe bigger is better due to the correlation between
secular growth and the increase in human longevity over the last few centuries. However, extensive research
involving animal studies, caloric restriction, biological parameters and human mortality and longevity studies
show that smaller humans with similar environments have many health and longevity advantages.
Since body size is a function of height, weight and body mass index, many of the mortality and longevity studies
have used height as an index of body size. Height and lean body mass generally increase together [12], and
females in most developed countries are shorter, lighter and have a lower body mass index. Over a lifetime,
height varies much less than weight or body mass index. Thus, this study uses height as a measure of body size
differences between the sexes. For example, a young 5’9” (175 cm) male may shrink less than 2” (5 cm) by 80
years of age. Thus 2” /69” (5 cm/175 cm) equals less than 3% shrinkage over a lifetime.
Since 1978, human longevity studies have found a variety of populations show shorter or smaller males and
females live longer or have lower mortality rates [13-29]. Although studies of shorter women living longer are
less common, several studies have found that shorter women have lower mortality or longevity rates [20, 22,
23]. A review of the biological factors that explain why shorter, smaller people live longer was also published
recently [30]. These biological factors include longer telomeres, lower DNA damage, fewer cells subject to
carcinogens, and larger organs with greater functional capacity in comparison to body weight. Note: the heart
and lungs are different in comparison to other organs in that they are proportional to body weight.
An overview [31] of findings summarized the various types of studies, populations (including athletes) and ethnic
groups evaluated by different researchers. While there was a wide range in the numbers of people in these
studies, most involved thousands of individuals and one study included about 1 million deceased men. A US
mortality study involved about 18 million subjects [31] and a Hawaiian study [19] tracked the mortality of 8000
elderly Japanese Americans over a 40-year period. Note that a number of researchers did not find a relation
between height and mortality or survival until 60, 70 or 80 years of age.
Over the years, scientists have labored over the causes for women living longer than men. They have identified
differences in XX and XY chromosomes, hormones, cancer and life style as the causes of their greater LE [32].
While at least some of these factors play a role, this paper examines an entirely different possibility. Since women
are generally shorter and lighter than men, we examined the inverse relationship between height and LE and
provide evidence that LE differences between the sexes are due to their different heights. It should be pointed
out that females have earlier maturity, a higher heart rate, more complex physiology, and carry one or more
fetuses in their bodies for 9 months that may affect their health and longevity. However, research is needed to
evaluate the effects of earlier maturity, higher heart rate, and reproductive complications on female health.
Findings on male-female longevity support previous reports by several researchers over the last 27 years [17,
20, 33]. For example, previous papers identified about 10 populations that show a very close inverse relationship
between the heights and life expectancies (LE) of males and females. This paper expands these findings by
exploring additional populations. We chose to compare the differences in height and longevity between males
and females in developed countries. The World Factbook [34] provided a list of 31 countries and this database
was used for the calculations in this paper. The method of data sampling and evaluation is described next.
The data sources selected expand previous findings related to male-female longevity differences. These previous
studies showed that taller males tend to have decreased longevity vs. shorter males similar to the differences
found in this paper [13, 16, 17]. However, earlier studies mainly focused on specific groups within the US. The
SOCIALSCI JOURNAL Vol 4 (2019) ISSN: 2581-6624 http://purkh.com/index.php/tosocial
data selected for this study represent a larger variety of countries with similar economic backgrounds. The height
and life expectancy data in this study were evaluated to determine whether previous longevity studies [11,13-
29] are supported by a broad range of male vs. female longevity differences. The entropy theory predicts that
larger, higher energy bodies within the same species exhibit more rapid increases in disorder (aging) over human
lifetimes [17].
2. Methods and materials
Sample selection
Recently, a number of male vs. female evaluations (unpublished) were made for various countries. However, they
included both developed and undeveloped populations, and some countries, such as Central and Eastern
European countries, had large differences between the percent difference in male height and the percent lower
life expectancy (LE). All these tests showed an average height difference of ~8% taller and ~9% shorter LE for
males vs. females. It was decided to expand these findings and to look at only developed countries for this study.
A search of the internet identified a list of 31 countries provided by the 2018 World Factbook [34]. These
countries represent millions of adults. In addition, countries in this list included various geographical locations,
such the US, Canada, Germany, France, Sweden, Japan, Singapore, Israel, South Korea and Australia. An
advantage of using developed countries is that their health data are more reliable than those of underdeveloped
countries.
Sources of height and life expectancy statistics
The major two sources used for height and life expectancy were List of Average Human Height Worldwide from
2018 [35] and Timonin et al. [36] from 2016. The 2018 World Bank Life Expectancy at Birth data [37] were used
for a few countries that were not listed in Timonin, et al. [36].
In some countries, multiple height entries were available. For this study, selection was based on measured vs.
self-reported heights. In addition, when multiple age groups were sp ecified for a country, heights were selected
for age groups as close to 20 years of age as possible.
Each country in the list had male and female height differences calculated in percentages; e.g., the difference in
height between sexes was divided by the height of females to compute the percent taller male height. The
difference in LE between the sexes for each country was divided by the LE of females to obtain the percentage
lower longevity for males compared to females. The heights, life expectancies, pe rcent larger male height
differences and percent lower LE differences of males in comparison to females were recorded in separate
columns as shown in Table 1. The average differences in height and LE were calculated for the entire list of 30
countries and added to the bottom of the table.
Cyprus was the only country omitted from these calculations because female height for Cyprus was not available
from the primary height source or other sources that were available. Five countries did not have LE data provided
in the primary source [36] and these data were obtained from the World Bank Life Expectancy report [37].
Statistical method
Two statistical tests were made to evaluate whether significant differences exist between (1) male and female
height and (2) male and female life expectancy. Two unmatched t-tests were used for this evaluation.
3. Results and Discussion
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Table 1 lists 30 countries with four columns for height and LE data for males and females. Two additional columns
identify the percentage differences in height and LE between the sexes under the two columns designated as
Delta.
The average age at height measurement was 23 years of age. The average year of height data was 2006. Thus,
the year of birth was about 1983. Timonin’s et al. [36] paper provided life expectancy at birth for 1984 and this
birth year was used to collect LE data for each country. Timonin’s et al. list [36] did not provide LE data for five
countries. The World Bank life expectancy (2018) [37] source was used for these five countries in Table 1: Greece,
Israel, Slovenia, S. Korea and Singapore.
The average increase in male height compared to females is 7.8%. The average decrease in LE for males
compared to females is 8.5%. Rounding to the nearest integer results in an increase of 8% in height for males
compared to an 8% lower LE compared to females.
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However, for individual countries, the differences are not as consistent. For example, Estonia, Finland, France,
Slovenia and Turkey have over 10% lower LE compared to about 8% greater height. In contrast, 17 countries
had height and LE differences of less than 1%; e.g., 8% vs. 9%.
Five other non-published evaluations were made and the differences were similar to Table 1. For example, the
first 20 countries identified in the 2018 List of Average Height Worldwide [35] were selected. In addition, LE
data were obtained from the 2018 List of Countries by Life Expectancy [38]. This sample included a combination
of developed and developing nations. The average difference in height between the sexes was 7.9% taller and
the difference in life expectancy was 6.5% lower.
The statistical tests from data in Table 1 comparing males and females were statically significant as follows:
Unmatched t-test for height: t =5.982; df = 26; p < .0005
Unmatched t-test for life expectancy: t = 9.38; df = 26; p < .0005
It is surprising that the difference in height can so accurately predict differences in longevity. However, height is
positively related to weight and we know that larger body mass is related to poorer health [12]. While height is
independently related to some factors, it does not explain the total difference in life expectancy. In addition,
height is likely a reflection of other factors that affect LE, such as longevity genes FOXO3 [19] and Laminin Alpha
5 [39]. Also, an increase in body size parameters, such a s height, weight or BMI, is negatively related to many
biological parameters [30]. However differences in body mass between the sexes may not always show that
women have lower levels of undesirable parameters, such as IGF-1 and insulin, although they tend to increase
within both sexes with height, body weight or body mass index. Women do have higher adiponectin and lower
mTORboth trends are related to greater longevity [30].
Compared to men, these levels correspond to lower body mass. In addition, longer telomeres are correlated
with the lower height and body mass of women. For example, Maier et al. [28] showed males were 8.6% taller
than females and had a 7.6% lower cell doubling potential [shorter telomeres]. (These percentages were
calculated from Maier’s data.) In addition, Giovannelli, et al. [40] found DNA damage was positively correlated
with height. Their findings indicate that the DNA damage increases exponentially with height. It appears that
DNA damage and reduced telomere length have important roles in longevity. In addition, Brown-Borg, et al.
[41] found that smaller dwarf males were deficient in growth hormone and lived longer than their normal size
female siblings.
Inspection of the data in Table 1 shows that within a specific country, there can be up to a 4.5 % difference
between the greater height of males and their lower life expectancy; e.g., 6 countries had a 2.8 to 4.5% difference
in life expectancy and height percentages. In contrast, 17 countries showed less than a 1% difference between
height and life expectancy percentages. Larger differences in percentages between height and life expectancy
are probably due to life style differences between males and females within their countries. For example,
smoking, drinking, drugs, and accidents may reduce male LE by a larger amount than for other countries with
different health and lifestyle practices.
The remarkably close inverse relation between shorter female height and longer longevity compared to male
parameters appears to be highly consistent. This is especially true when the percent de crease in longevity of
taller vs. shorter men corroborates the male vs. female findings. For example, three male-to-male comparisons
are listed below:
1. Deceased US veterans were 6.4% taller had a 6.9% lower longevity compared to shorter deceased veterans
[13].
2. Deceased US baseball players were 4.5% taller had a 4.6% shorter longevity vs. shorter deceased players
[13].
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3. Finnish basketball players were 7.9% taller and had an 8.7% lower LE compared to shorter cross -country
skiers [17]. (Percentages were computed from data provided in reference source.)
While the results shown in Table 1 and various studies show that height and body size are inversely related to
longevity, many men outlive the average woman. For example, some centenarian populations include up to 25%
males. Thus, these men outlived the average woman by about 2 decades. In addition, a study of Sardinian
centenarians found men represented half the population [25].
Many mortality studies show taller people have lower coronary heart disease or all-cause mortality compared
to shorter ones. However, in recent years, three large mortality studies found shorter people have lower mortality
[22, 23, 24].
Most mortality studies are affected by several confounding factors. For example, most studies don’t track
subjects through advanced ages, but the studies by Mueller, Salaris, and He, indicate that the longevity benefits
of shorter height do not show up until after 60, 70, or 80 years of age [15, 18, 19]. Therefore, tracking all subjects
into advanced ages provides more reliable results as indicated by the referenced researchers. In addition, it is
difficult to account for childhood stunting and the harmful effects of malnutrition, childhood illness, and
stress/trauma on adult health. All of these factors can reduce adult height, health and longevity. Catch-up
growth of low birth weight infants is also related to adult chronic disease and mortality [42]. Other important
factors are socioeconomic status during different periods of one’s life [43] and the tendency for shorter people
to be overweight [12, 44]. For example, if people are compared who are in a higher income bracket, those who
were poor in childhood will be shorter than people who have been well off all their lives [43]. As result, the study
would falsely relate shorter height to higher mortality when the real causes are related to being poor in earlier
years.
4. Conclusions
The broad-band evidence that 21st century shorter women live longer than taller men is indisputable. The reason
for this appears to be that smaller individuals age slower under similar socioeconomic conditions and life styles.
The evidence relating smaller body size to better health and longevity is strong and consistent, and it indicates
that larger human size places a burden on our biological systems that result in increased chronic disease and
reduced longevity. Shorter telomeres and higher levels of IGF-1 and insulin appear to play major roles in
reducing the longevity of larger individuals [30].
The question, of course, is what should be done about this situation. The answer lies in nutrition. T Colin
Campbell has attributed our increased height and chronic disease to excessive consumption of animal protein
[45]. However, this conflicts with the popular thesis that large babies, faster growth, early maturity and greater
height and body weight reflect a healthful combination [42, 46, 47]. The findings in this and many other papers
indicate that this thesis is not true based on widespread chronic disease and obesity in the modern world [17].
In addition, many studies have found that higher birth weight is correlated with future overweight or obesity,
cancer and increased type-2 diabetes [17]. For example, Samaras reviewed findings that showed higher birth
weight and rapid growth promote cancer and reduced longevity [48]. He also showed that higher birth weight
and rapid growth promote overweight and obesity. In addition, children who experience adiposity rebound
before 5 years of age average 4.5 BMI points higher in adulthood compared to those that grow slower and reach
adiposity rebound after 7 years of age. Previous studies also provide a list of 12 populations where the
individuals lose an average of 0.51 years per centimeter of increased height (-0.35 to -0.70 yr/cm) [16].
Nutritionists need to redesign our current food practices so that smaller infants can be healthy and grow more
slowly with a lower increase in BMI. The nutrition followed by pre-Western people shows that children can be
lighter at birth and grow slower and smaller with virtually no Western chronic diseases [49]. An improved
nutrition paradigm combined with modern hygiene, sanitation and medical care could improve the lives of
billions of people and reduce the odds of economic disaster related to unbearable medical costs. It would also
have many personal and ecological benefits.
SOCIALSCI JOURNAL Vol 4 (2019) ISSN: 2581-6624 http://purkh.com/index.php/tosocial
Disclosure statement
The authors have no conflict of interest.
Funding
No outside funding was used to the research and preparation of this paper.
Author contributions
The authors contributed equally in the initial concept for this paper. In addition, the authors participated equally
in the evaluation of the data obtained on height and life expectancy differences between men and women.
Samaras wrote the basic paper and Marson and Lillis contributed text material, data evaluation and suggestions
for improvement. Statistical analyses were done by Marson and Lillis.
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... In 2019, our paper was published showing that women live longer than men because they are shorter. [6] Studies going back to 1992 provided early evidence supporting this finding. ...
... An Italian study found shorter men lived longer based on about 400 men from a village in Sardinia. 6. A US study evaluated over 3000 deceased baseball players and found that the shorter ones lived longer. ...
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This paper provides an opportunity for medical and nutrition scientists to re-evaluate their emphasis on rapid growth, early maturity and increased height. The following viewpoint provides a summary of hundreds of studies showing shorter height and associated biological parameters correlate with better health and longevity. It also offers evidence of the increasing acceptance of these findings. For example, the Gerontological Society of America and Oxford University Press and Socialsci Journal recently published our findings showing that sexual dimorphism in height is inversely related to male-female life expectancy differences; e.g., males are 7.8% taller and have an 8.4% shorter life expectancy. Biological factors are also identified that provide a physiological basis to explain why smaller body size has inherent benefits in terms of better health and longevity.
... In 2019, our paper was published showing that women live longer than men because they are shorter. [6] Studies going back to 1992 provided early evidence supporting this finding. ...
... An Italian study found shorter men lived longer based on about 400 men from a village in Sardinia. 6. A US study evaluated over 3000 deceased baseball players and found that the shorter ones lived longer. ...
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Over the last 100 years, studies have provided mixed results on the mortality and health of tall and short people. However, during the last 30 years, several researchers have found a negative correlation between greater height and longevity based on relatively homogeneous deceased population samples. Findings based on millions of deaths suggest that shorter, smaller bodies have lower death rates and fewer diet-related chronic diseases, especially past middle age. Shorter people also appear to have longer average lifespans. The authors suggest that the differences in longevity between the sexes is due to their height differences because men average about 8.0% taller than women and have a 7.9% lower life expectancy at birth. Animal experiments also show that smaller animals within the same species generally live longer. The relation between height and health has become more important in recent years because rapid developments in genetic engineering will offer parents the opportunity to increase the heights of their children in the near future. The authors contend that we should not be swept along into a new world of increasingly taller generations without careful consideration of the impact of a worldwide population of taller and heavier people.
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This study estimates the relationship between height and mortality. Individuals in the National Health Interview Survey 1986, a nationally representative U.S. sample, are linked to death certificate data until December 31, 2006. We analyze this relationship in 14,440 men and 16,390 women aged 25+. We employ the Cox proportional hazards model, controlling for birthday and education. An additional inch increase in height is related to a hazard ratio of death from all causes that is 2.2% higher for men and 2.5% higher for women. The findings are robust to changing survival distributions, and further analyses indicate that the figures are lower bounds. This relationship is mainly driven by the positive relationship between height and development of cancer. An additional inch increase in height is related to a hazard ratio of death from malignant neoplasms that is 7.1% higher for men and 5.7% higher for women. In contrast to the negative relationship between height and mortality in the past, this relationship is now positive. This demonstrates the success and accessibility of medical technology in treating patients with many acute and chronic diseases other than cancer. © The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.