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Did taller people live longer? Influence of height on life span in rural Spain (19th-20th centuries)
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1  University of Zaragoza


This article analyses the relationship between male height and age at death among adults born between 1835 and 1939 in 14 villages in north-eastern Spain. A total of 1,488 conscripts who died between 1868 and 2019 have been included in the analysis. The height data have been obtained from conscriptions for military service; demographic and socioeconomic data of the deceased were obtained from parish archives and censuses. The data were linked according to nominative criteria using family reconstitution methods. The results suggest that historically there has been a positive relationship between height and life span in the long-term. For the birth cohort 1835-1869, conscripts with a height of 170 cm or more lived on average 7.6 years longer than individuals under 160 cm. This biological difference disappeared for the birth cohort 1900-1939 as result of a progressive improvement in health and nutrition conditions, benefiting especially the short conscripts.

Keywords: Heights, Life span, Biological inequality, rural Spain, 19th-20th centuries