Secret of human longevity is all in the height

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Long-limbed and tall people live longer than short ones. What's more, they have done for centuries ­ since the days when the Anglo-Saxons regarded a man of six foot as a giant.

Long-limbed and tall people live longer than short ones. What's more, they have done for centuries ­ since the days when the Anglo-Saxons regarded a man of six foot as a giant.

Researchers have shown that since at least the ninth century AD, taller people have been significantly more likely to survive beyond their 30th birthday than their shorter counterparts.

The scientists, who included an archaeologist and a rheumatologist, studied 490 skeletons excavated from a graveyard at Barton-in-Humber, Humberside. The bones at St Peter's church had been buried from the 9th century to 1850.

They measured to the nearest millimetre the long bones and calculated the sex and age of death in each case. Most failed to reach the age of 45, and 124 men and 94 women died before they were 30. However, in every case the chance of dying before 30 was higher among people with shorter bones. Women were also more likely to die young than men.

Dr David Gunnell, an epidemiologist from the department of social medicine at Bristol University, who led the research, said: We wanted to find out if an association between height and health has always been the case. The answer seems to be that it has.

"Even in the 10th or 11th century, it is likely that richer people had a better diet, were better nourished and were not so exposed to infection as children ­ they grew taller and were less likely to die young."

A link between height, good health and longevity has long been established for modern men and women. Taller people tend to come from higher social classes, because in childhood they are more likely to be better fed and less exposed to disease, and to come from non-smoking homes. This in turn makes them healthier.

Although tall people are at greater risk of cancer, they are less likely to suffer from heart disease and respiratory problems than their shorter kin.

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