Innovation in Aging, 2018

The close inverse relationship between male and female height and life expectancy.

By Samaras T, Marson S, & Lillis J.


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. In addition, males experience more deaths from homicides and risky behavior. 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 factor related to life expectancy is body size differences between men and women; e.g., an early study showed that differences in male and female height are inversely related to life expectancy: males are 8% taller and have a 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 30 developed countries was used to compare height and life expectancy differences between men and women. While it is a fact that women have a higher life expectancy compared to taller men, the results showed a surprisingly close inverse relationship between height differences and lower life expectancy. For example, men were found to be 7.8% taller and had an 8.4% 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.

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