Height is associated with mortality from many diseases, but it remains unclear whether the association is causal or due to confounding by social factors, genetic pleiotropy,(1) or existing ill-health. The authors investigated whether the association of height with mortality is causal by using a son's height as an instrumental variable (IV) for parents' height among the parents of a cohort of 1,036,963 Swedish men born between 1951 and 1980 who had their height measured at military conscription, aged around 18, between 1969 and 2001. In a two-sample IV analysis adjusting for son's age at examination and secular trends in height, as well as parental age, and socioeconomic position, the hazard ratio (HR) for all-cause paternal mortality per standard deviation (SD, 6.49cm) of height was 0.96 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.95, 0.96). The results of IV analyses of mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), respiratory disease, cancer, external causes and suicide were comparable to those obtained using son's height as a simple proxy for own height and to conventional analyses of own height in the present data and elsewhere, suggesting that such conventional analyses are not substantially confounded by existing ill-health.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.