Understanding the links between month of birth, body height, and longevity: why some studies reveal that shorter people live longer – further evidence of seasonal programming from the Polish population

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Abstract

There is a lack of agreement in the literature as to whether adult height depends on month of birth and whether height affects lifespan. Additionally, the relationship between stature and longevity involves conflicting findings and the results remain mixed due to several confounders, such as: year of birth, somatotype, relative body weight, genetic inheritance, diet, diseases, etc. Here, we hypothesize that the season of birth effect can also be involved in shaping the mysterious link between body height and longevity. To assess the links between month of birth, adult height, and longevity in the Polish population, data on 848,860 individuals, of whom 483,512 were men (57%) and 365,348 were women (43%), born in the years 1896-1988 and died in the years 2004-2008, were collected from the ‘PESEL’ database and signalments in the censuses obtained from identity card offices throughout Poland. ANOVA and the LSD test were performed. A significant relationship between month of birth and lifespan was found. Individuals born in autumn and winter months lived significantly longer than those who were born in the middle of the year (May). The amplitudes of lifespan were 16 months in men and 14 months in women. As expected, subjects of both sexes born in autumn and winter months were significantly shorter than their peers born around the middle of the year. In conclusion, the results of the study not only corroborate the theory of seasonal programming of longevity and support the idea that some undetermined factors from early stages of ontogeny and associated with season of birth have long-term effects on phenotype in later life in terms of adult height and longevity, but also bear out the hypothesis that month of birth can be another important confounding factor with respect to the relationship between adult height and longevity.

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