Adult height and risk of 50 diseases: a combined epidemiological and genetic analysis

Florence Y Lai, Mintu Nath, Stephen E Hamby, John R Thompson, Christopher P Nelson, Nilesh J Samani* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: Adult height is associated with risk of several diseases, but the breadth of such associations and whether these associations are primary or due to confounding are unclear. We examined the association of adult height with 50 diseases spanning multiple body systems using both epidemiological and genetic approaches, the latter to identify un-confounded associations and possible underlying mechanisms.

METHODS: We examined the associations for adult height (using logistic regression adjusted for potential confounders) and genetically determined height (using a two-sample Mendelian randomisation approach with height-associated genetic variants as instrumental variables) in 417,434 individuals of white ethnic background participating in the UK Biobank. We undertook pathway analysis of height-associated genes to identify biological processes that could link height and specific diseases.

RESULTS: Height was associated with 32 diseases and genetically determined height associated with 12 diseases. Of these, 11 diseases showed a concordant association in both analyses, with taller height associated with reduced risks of coronary artery disease (odds ratio per standard deviation (SD) increase in height ORepi = 0.80, 95% CI 0.78-0.81; OR per SD increase in genetically determined height ORgen = 0.86, 95% CI 0.82-0.90), hypertension (ORepi = 0.83, 95% CI 0.82-0.84; ORgen = 0.88, 95% CI 0.85-0.91), gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (ORepi = 0.85, 95% CI 0.84-0.86; ORgen = 0.94, 95% CI 0.92-0.97), diaphragmatic hernia (ORepi = 0.81, 95% CI 0.79-0.82; ORgen = 0.91, 95% CI 0.88-0.94), but increased risks of atrial fibrillation (ORepi = 1.42, 95% CI 1.38-1.45; ORgen = 1.33, 95% CI 1.26-1.40), venous thromboembolism (ORepi = 1.18, 95% CI 1.16-1.21; ORgen = 1.15, 95% CI 1.11-1.19), intervertebral disc disorder (ORepi = 1.15, 95% CI 1.13-1.18; ORgen = 1.14, 95% CI 1.09-1.20), hip fracture (ORepi = 1.19, 95% CI 1.12-1.26; ORgen = 1.27, 95% CI 1.17-1.39), vasculitis (ORepi = 1.15, 95% CI 1.11-1.19; ORgen = 1.20, 95% CI 1.14-1.28), cancer overall (ORepi = 1.09, 95% CI 1.08-1.11; ORgen = 1.06, 95% CI 1.04-1.08) and breast cancer (ORepi = 1.08, 95% CI 1.06-1.10; ORgen = 1.07, 95% CI 1.03-1.11). Pathway analysis showed multiple height-associated pathways associating with individual diseases.

CONCLUSIONS: Adult height is associated with risk of a range of diseases. We confirmed previously reported height associations for coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation, venous thromboembolism, intervertebral disc disorder, hip fracture and cancer and identified potential novel associations for gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, diaphragmatic hernia and vasculitis. Multiple biological mechanisms affecting height may affect the risks of these diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number187
Number of pages18
JournalBMC medicine
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

FYL and SEH are funded by the National Institute for Health Research Leicester Biomedical Research Centre. CPN and NJS are funded by the British Heart Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

Availability of data and materials
The data reported in this paper are available via application directly to the UK Biobank.


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Height/genetics
  • Disease/etiology
  • Female
  • Genetic Testing/methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis/methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors


Dive into the research topics of 'Adult height and risk of 50 diseases: a combined epidemiological and genetic analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this