Short people: no reason to live?
Are short men discriminated against? A new study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry has raised the question once again.
The report, based on the records of nearly 1.3 million Swedish men, suggests that shorter men may be more likely than taller men to commit suicide. Roughly speaking, for every 2 inches a man gained in height, his suicide risk dipped by 9%. Overall, the shortest men in the study were about twice as likely as the tallest men to commit suicide.
Some previous studies have uncovered a similar height-suicide relationship among men. The assumption was that poorer men with poorer parents tended to eat less well and therefore were shorter and, at the same time, there was an obvious link between lack of money and suicide. This study suggests this explanation is oversimplistic.
Overall, just over 3,000 men of the 1.3 million men committed suicide but factors such as year of birth, education, parents' incomes did not explain the height-suicide link.
The researchers offer several potential explanations. Psychological stress and a troubled family life, they note, may both impair a child's growth and raise the risk of suicide later on. There is also some evidence that poor weight gain in infancy is a risk factor for suicide in adulthood.
On the other hand, adulthood factors could also be important. Marriage, the study authors point out, tends to reduce the risk of suicide, and shorter men may be less likely to marry.
An alternative explanation is that short men suffer some level of stigmatization or discrimination that makes them more vulnerable to suicidal behavior.
'Short people got no reason to live,' sang the satirical American singer Randy Newman. He thought he was being ironic. But was it a case of 'many a true word spoken in jest'? What do you think?
Page created on August 1st, 2005
Page updated on December 1st, 2009