Skip navigation
Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

New Study Connects Adult Health Habits to Height Loss

A new study shows that illiterate people shrink almost two centimeters more, on average, than high school graduates.

A study released Monday has revealed that health and lifestyle decisions made during adulthood have an effect on the natural shrinking that occurs with age.

The research by economists from the University of Southern California, Harvard University and Peking University showed, for example, a strong relationship between the amount of height-loss and the level of cognitive health. Those who experienced big losses in height were more likely to score low on tests of cognitive health.

"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 in the study. "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."

Socioeconomic factors were also shown to correlate to height loss, and those living in an urban environment were shown to experience less height loss than those living in rural areas.

Additionally, for men, the completion of primary school on average led to 0.9 cm less height loss then seen in those who are illiterate. The completion of high school meant an additional 1 cm less height loss, meaning men who complete high school experience on average only 1.4 cm of height loss versus the overall average height loss of 3.3 cm.

The study used unique data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study, a massive longitudinal survey of 17,708 adults beginning at age 45. The study was published in the April 2013 issue of the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

USC economist Geert Ridder was also a co-investigator on the study.

Leave a comment

We've Moved!

By Sam Bergum
01/21/16 | 11:09 a.m. PST

Visit us at!

USC Basketball Knocks Off Rival UCLA 89- 75

By Scott Cook
01/14/16 | 12:05 a.m. PST

USC defeats UCLA with stellar play from their Freshmen. 

Holiday Bowl - USC vs Wisconsin Post-Game Press Conference

Su'a Cravens: "It's the players that need to step up"

Darreus Rogers: "It comes down to the players"

Trojans Fall to Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl 23-21

We detected that you might be on a mobile device such as an iPad or iPhone. Sorry, at this time the video box is only visible on desktop computers.