Associations among height, body mass index and intelligence from age 11 to age 78 years

Mathew A Harris, Caroline E Brett, Ian J Deary, John M Starr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND: Intelligence is related to both height and body mass index (BMI) at various stages of life. Several studies have demonstrated longitudinal relationships between these measures, but none has established whether height and intelligence, or BMI and intelligence are linked from childhood through to older age.

METHODS: We assessed the relations between these measures over an interval of up to 67 years using data from the 36-Day Sample, an initially-representative sample of Scottish people born in 1936, assessed at age 11 years (N = 6,291) and again at 77-78 years (N = 722). This paper focuses on the 423 participants (6.7 % of the original sample) who provided relevant data in late adulthood.

RESULTS: Height and intelligence were significantly positively associated in childhood (β = .23) and late adulthood (β = .21-.29). Longitudinal correlations also showed that childhood intelligence predicted late-adulthood height (β = .20), and childhood height predicted late-adulthood cognitive ability (β = .12-.14). We observed no significant relationship between BMI and intelligence either in childhood or in late adulthood, nor any longitudinal association between the two in this sample.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results on height and intelligence are the first to demonstrate that their relationship spans almost seven decades, from childhood through to late adulthood, and they call for further investigation into the mechanisms underlying this lifelong association.

Original languageEnglish
Article number167
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sept 2016


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