Short stature as an effect of economic and social conditions in childhood

Soc Sci Med. 1995 Sep;41(5):733-8. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(94)00379-8.


Only a few studies on the effect of environmental factors on height are based on adults and none, that we could find, relates adult height to both economic and psycho-social conditions in childhood. The aim of this study is to investigate whether four indicators of economic and psycho-social conditions during childhood are related to a variation in adult height and whether these factors can explain the variation in height between men and women from different childhood classes. The study is based on data derived from a study of living conditions in Sweden conducted in 1991. Beside childhood socio-economic group, indicated by father's occupation, we employ four indicators of economic and psycho-social conditions during the childhood period, previously employed elsewhere. These are economic hardship, large family, dissension in the family and disunited family during childhood. The prevalence of short stature differs significantly by three of the four indicators on economic and psycho-social childhood conditions. It is also more common if the person has grown up in a disunited family, but this effect is not significant. The proportion of short persons also varied significantly by childhood socio-economic group. On the whole, short stature in adulthood seems to be a reflection of a number of adverse conditions in childhood, both economic, status related and psycho-social, and can, consequently, be seen as summing up the whole childhood period rather than merely reflecting differences in nutrition or any other specific condition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Height*
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Dwarfism / psychology*
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Class
  • Social Environment*
  • Socioeconomic Factors*
  • Sweden