Does living in a democracy make you tall?

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Nov 21, 2014 23:50 IST

New research linking democracy and wellbeing suggests that men growing up in a democracy are likely to be taller than those who spend the first 20 years of their lives in a communist regime.

The link is related to good nutrition, high disposable income and a life free of social and political constraints, according to findings by experts from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

In their study of Czech Republic and Slovakian residents since the dissolution of the communist regime in 1989, political economist Joan Costa-i-Font and colleague Lucia Kossarova found clear height differences between the two regimes.

For Slovaks, those born under democracy as opposed to communism are on average 1.5cm taller, gaining about 0.28cm for each year spent in a democratic society. Czechs gained about 0.14cm each year in comparison, a release from LSE said.

The poorer, less educated Slovaks appear to have benefited more from democracy, Costa-i-Font’s study shows.

Unusually, only men’s height has increased since the end of the communist regime. Women’s stature has not changed in either Slovakia or the Czech Republic, possibly reflecting little improvement in their lives under a democratic society, the release added.

Previous experiments in Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall appeared to endorse the findings.

“West Germans were found to be taller than East Germans by approximately 1cm,” Costa-i-Font says. “More importantly, such a gap appears to have widened only after the Berlin Wall was built in 1961. Since unification there has been a convergence of heights — among men, in any case.”

Almost 3000 residents from the Czech Republic and Slovakia were interviewed for the LSE study, comparing birth dates with stature and also establishing links between income and height.

The results show that residents born before 1973 are significantly shorter than those born between 1974 and 1985. There is also up to a 2cm height difference between the richest and poorest.

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