Effects of height loss on morbidity and mortality in 3145 community-dwelling Chinese older women and men: a 5-year prospective study

Age Ageing. 2010 Nov;39(6):699-704. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afq101. Epub 2010 Sep 4.


Background: height loss beginning in mid-life and post-menopausal period was associated with adverse health outcomes. However, height loss occurring after old age has been little studied. We examined how height loss was related to bone mineral density (BMD) change, fracture incidence and cause-specific mortality in older adults.

Methods: the stature and BMD of 3145 community-dwelling men and women aged ≥65 were measured at baseline and after 4 years. All fracture and cause-specific mortality events were searched in a territory-wide clinical information database and death registry.

Results: twenty-five (1.6%) men and 64 (4.0%) women lost >2 cm after 4 years. In women, the BMD decline was faster in the rapid height losers (adjusted difference = 4.18%, P < 0.001). There was no corresponding difference observed in men. Rapid height loss was associated with excess all fractures and hip fractures (adjusted HR for all fractures = 2.86, P < 0.001; adjusted HR for hip fractures = 4.74, P < 0.01) in women but only hip fractures (adjusted HR = 4.93, P < 0.05) in men. The all-cause (adjusted HR = 3.43, P < 0.01) and respiratory disease mortality (adjusted HR = 5.64, P < 0.05) were higher in men with rapid height loss, whereas those in women were insignificant.

Conclusions: modest height loss occurring after old age, >2 cm in 4 years, was associated with excess hip fracture, total and respiratory disease mortality in older men. In women, it was associated with excess BMD decline, all fractures and hip fractures but not mortality. Further research is needed to determine the usefulness of regular stature measurement as an indicator of bone health in the primary-care setting in older adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asian People / statistics & numerical data*
  • Body Height*
  • Bone Density*
  • Female
  • Hip Fractures / ethnology
  • Hip Fractures / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Morbidity
  • Osteoporosis / ethnology
  • Osteoporosis / mortality*
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution