The One Drawback of Being Tall: It’s Apparently a Health Risk

A new study suggests above-average height is associated with various health issues, including atrial fibrillation, varicose veins and nerve damage

A shorter woman and taller man walking with masks. A new study suggests tall people may be more prone to certain health risks.
Be careful out there, tall people.
kali9 / Getty Images

A new and very large scientific study suggests that simply being tall could make a person more prone to certain health issues, including atrial fibrillation, varicose veins, skin/bone infections and nerve damage.

The clinical and genetic data for this paper, published this month in PLOS Genetics, was culled from the records of 222,300 non-Hispanic White and 58,151 non-Hispanic Black adults in the U.S. Veterans Affairs Million Veteran Program (Hispanic adults were not included due to limited sample size; as well, over 91% of the veterans analyzed in this study were men). Height genetic risks were based on 3,290 height-associated variants from a recent European-ancestry genome-wide meta-analysis. The mean height for the adults in the survey was roughly 5’9″.

As the paper concludes, “Height may be an unrecognized non-modifiable risk factor for several common conditions in adults.” As ScienceAlert suggests, the results here back up prior studies that have said taller people actually have it easier as it relates to hypertension, hyperlipidemia and coronary heart disease, but at the cost of being more prone to atrial fibrillation and varicose veins.

Not great news for taller than average people, but again, height is a risk factor that can’t be changed because, you know, genetics (the paper also noted that any height-related health risk associations “were largely independent from body mass index,” so this wasn’t about tall people who are also “big”). The study also reached no conclusions on causation or prevention, and additional studies will need to be done to include more information from Hispanics, women and non-veterans.

The good news, tall guys, is that if you know you’re more prone to certain health risks, you can take common-sense precautions.

Win the Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix Experience

Want the F1 experience of a lifetime? Here’s your chance to win tickets to see Turn 18 Grandstand, one of Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix’s most premier grandstands!