• Vol. 42 No. 2, 73–79
  • 15 February 2013

Height and Mental Health and Health Utility Among Ethnic Chinese in a Polyclinic Sample in Singapore

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ABSTRACT

Introduction: Whether final height is associated with quality of life and mental health is a matter of epidemiological and medical concern. Both social and biological explanations have been previously proposed. This study aims to assess the associations in ethnic Chinese in Singapore.

Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional study of 4414 respondents aged at least 21 years seen at a major polyclinic was performed. Socioeconomic and behavioural features of the sample and the Singapore population of similar ages were comparable. Height was measured by clinic nurses using an ultrasonic height senor. Participants were interviewed for socioeconomic, behavioural, health and quality of life information. Clinical morbidity data was collected from the participants’ treating physicians. The SF-6D utility index and its Mental Health domain were the main endpoints. Linear and ordinal logistic regression models were used to analyse the utility index and the Mental Health scores, respectively.

Results: Having adjusted for age and gender, the Mental Health domain (P <0.01) was associated with height but the utility index was not. Further adjustment for health, socioeconomic and behavioural covariates made little difference. Analyses based on height categories showed similar trends.

Conclusion: Adult height has a positive association with mental health as measured by the SF-6D among ethnic Chinese in Singapore. Socioeconomic status and known physical health problems do not explain this association. Adult height had no association with SF-6D utility index scores.


Several studies have found adult height predictive of mental health and emotional well-being. A study of Swedish conscripts demonstrated an inverse association between
height at age 18 to 19 and suicide mortality over 15 years of follow-up. Similarly, a study of Filipinos demonstrated an inverse association between height at age 18 and suicidal
ideation. Having adjusted for covariates, an increase of one height Z-score at age 18 years was associated with a 38% reduction in the odds of suicidal ideation. A large
scale cross-sectional survey of Americans found that taller height was associated with better emotional well-being. A study of adolescents in the United States also demonstrated an inverse association between height and depression. However, a cohort study of Norwegian adults found no relation between height and depression or suicide. It has been suggested that such associations may indicate the role of childhood growth in the aetiology of adult mental health or social favouritism experienced by taller people.

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