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Physical Stature Decline and the Health Status of the Elderly Population in England

Author

Listed:
  • Alan Fernihough

    () (Institute for International Integration Studies, Trinity College Dublin)

  • Mark E. McGovern

    () (Harvard School of Public Health)

Abstract

Few research papers in economics have examined the extent, causes or consequences of physical stature decline in aging populations. Using repeated observations on objectively measured data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), we document that reduction in height is an important phenomenon among respondents aged 50 and over. On average, physical stature decline occurs at an annual rate of between 0.08% and 0.10% for males, and 0.12% and 0.14% for females — which approximately translates into a 2cm to 4cm reduction in height over the life course. Since height is commonly used as a measure of long-run health, our results demonstrate that failing to take age-related height loss into account substantially overstates the health advantage of older birth cohorts relative to their younger counterparts. We also show that there is an absence of consistent predictors of physical stature decline at the individual level. However, we demonstrate how deteriorating health and reductions in height occur simultaneously. We document that declines in muscle mass and bone density are likely to be the mechanism through which these effects are operating. If this physical stature decline is determined by deteriorating health in adulthood, the coefficient on a measured height when used as an input in a typical empirical health production function will be affected by reverse causality. While our analysis details the inherent difficulties associated with measuring height in older populations, we do not find that significant bias arises in typical empirical health productionfunctions from the use of height which has not been adjusted for physical stature decline. Therefore, our results validate the use of height among the population aged over 50.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan Fernihough & Mark E. McGovern, "undated". "Physical Stature Decline and the Health Status of the Elderly Population in England," PGDA Working Papers 11214, Program on the Global Demography of Aging.
  • Handle: RePEc:gdm:wpaper:11214
    as

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    File URL: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/pgda/WorkingPapers/2014/PGDA_WP_112.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Physical Stature Decline and the Health Status of the Elderly Population in England
      by Mark McGovern in Economics, Psychology and Policy on 2014-01-30 01:59:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Kim, Younoh, 2015. "The dynamics of health and its determinants among the elderly in developing countries," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 19(C), pages 1-12.
    2. Jinkook Lee & McGovern, Mark E. & David E. Bloom & P. Arokiasamy & Arun Risbud & Jennifer O?Brien & Varsha Kale & Peifeng Hu, 2015. "Education, Gender, and State-Level Gradients in the Health of Older Indians: Evidence from Biomarker Data," Working Paper 228841, Harvard University OpenScholar.
    3. Blum, Matthias & Colvin, Christopher L. & McLaughlin, Eoin, 2017. "Scarring and selection in the Great Irish Famine," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2017-08, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    4. Mosca, Irene & Wright, Robert E., 2016. "Height and cognition at older ages: Irish evidence," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 149(C), pages 98-101.
    5. McGovern, Mark E., 2014. "Comparing the relationship between stature and later life health in six low and middle income countries," The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Elsevier, vol. 4(C), pages 128-148.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Height; Physical Stature Decline; Early Life Conditions; Health; Aging;

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts

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