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Finish high school and you won't shrink as much when you're older: study

Think shrinking as you age is just an inevitable part of growing old? Well, think again.  A new study suggests education, income, and where you live may affect how much height you lose. 

Economists from the University of Southern California, Harvard University and Peking University in Bejing conducted the study from data they collected for their ongoing China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study That long-term survey includes 17,708 Chinese, 45 and older, from 150 counties randomly chosen throughout China.

Using physical measurements and interviews, the researchers measured the association of later-life height shrinkage against a variety socioeconomic factors.

Their findings– published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics – found, among other things, that illiterate Chinese men lost on average 2 centimeters -- about three-quarters of an inch -- more in height than those who completed high school.

It also found that city living and higher household spending appear to have lessened the amount those in the study shrank in later life.

That’s important, the researchers say, because the amount of height we lose as we age appears to be related to later-life health problems. Most notable among them: loss of short-term memory and other cognitive functions linked to depression and dementia. 

Health and Height Study