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Napoleon complex or not, short guys are twice as likely to develop dementia than tall boys, says study

Proof positive that, if you look hard enough, you'll be able to link pretty much anything in the universe with anything else and no, I'm not talking about The Force (although at almost exactly 5ft 10in Obi Wan could afford to be quite sanguine).

I'm talking about research like the report from Edinburgh University that invites headlines like the one I used to get you to read this story and that in today's Daily Mail "Men shorter than 5ft 6ins are '50% more likely to die from dementia than those over 5ft 10ins'".

In women the increased risk was around 35%

To arrive at their concusions the study team sifted through the data of over 180,000 people over a 14 year period from the mid '80s to the late '90s.

During the period covered by the study marginally fewer than 10% (17,553) of the subjects died, just over 6% of whom (1,093 - around a half of one per cent of the total group) died from dementia.

The relative height of each group member was analysed and some shockingly precise calculations made such as a 24% increase in the risk of a dementia related death for every three inches below 5ft10n.

The researchers from the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre at Edinburgh University were keen to point out that shortened height did nothing to cause dementia, but might be an indicator of other factors that were contributory.

Or it might mean that you come from a long line of jockeys.

While I find this sort of statistical comparison as fascinating as the next man, as long as the next man is shorter than me, I can't help wondering whether those 'other factors' are not much more worthy of investigation.

It reminds me somewhat of a story I read many years ago as a cautionary tale about research.

A group of students were experimenting with the effects of sound on grasshoppers, attempting to discover how they 'heard' their own chirupping.

They quickly found that, at a certain frequency, the grasshoppers all jumped simultaneously.

Upon further investigation they were happy to report that they had proven that grasshoppers sensed soundwaves with their legs.

Their proof?

After surgically removing the grasshoppers' legs, none of them jumped when the sound was played, QED.



Sources: Daily Mail et al.


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