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Taller, more alive

Frankfurter Rundschau

Has the life expectancy of tall people been higher throughout history than that of short people? A cemetery in the town of Burton on the Humber, in northeastern England, provided British researchers, who examined centuries-old bones, with evidence to support this theory.

Nutrition and diseases in childhood affect the size of a person's body, and the better the conditions in which the child grows up, the bigger he grows. The current study, done by epidemiologists from the University of Bristol, confirms these assertions based on the examination of 490 skeletons.

The researchers focused on skeletons from the ninth century. They identified the gender of each deceased and their age at the time of death, and found that 39% of the men and 56% of the women died before reaching the age of 30. They also found that at that time the likelihood that a person would die at a relatively young age was closely related to the length of their bones. The longer the arm and leg bones were, the greater the person's chance of living past the age of 30. "It seems that short bones have always been an indication of low life expectancy," wrote the researchers, whose article was published in Epidemiology and Community Health. According to David Gunnell, an expert in social medicine from the University of Bristol, "many hundreds of years ago, tall people were also richer and on average more than short people, so their diet was better."

A previous study conducted in Germany showed that people who belonged to the working class were shorter than people who belonged to the bourgeois class and that the life expectancy of the workers was lower.

© All rights reserved to "Haaretz" newspaper 2001

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