Short men live longer - and it's all because of their genes: Those below 5ft 2in have longest lives, study says

·         Study of 8,000 men shows short men lived longer than their taller peers

·         Scientists found short stature may be related to gene linked to longevity

·         Shorter men more have lower blood insulin, and less likely to have cancer

They don’t fit with the ‘tall, dark and handsome’ ideal supposedly favoured by women. But there is some good news for shorter men – as when it comes to longevity, they just might measure up best. A study of 8,000 men has found that those of a lesser height lived longer than their taller peers – with those below 5ft 2in living longest.

The research, conducted by US scientists, suggested short stature may be related to a gene that is linked to longevity. A protective form of the gene, called FOXO3, leads to smaller body size during early development but is also likely to mean a longer life span. Shorter men were also more likely to have lower blood insulin levels, and were less likely to have cancer in their lifetime.

Professor Bradley Willcox, of the University of Hawaii, said: ‘ 'We split people into two groups - those that were 5-foot-2 and shorter, and 5-4 and taller. 'The folks that were 5-2 and shorter lived the longest. The range was seen all the way across from being 5-foot tall to 6-foot tall. The taller you got, the shorter you lived.'

The study, published in the journal Plos One, tracked more than 8,000 American men of Japanese ancestry born between the years 1900 and 1919. The lifestyles and health conditions of these men were closely followed and studied by the researchers through the years.

Professor Willicox said the findings are not absolute, but do provide a strong link between height and longevity. 'No matter how tall you are, you can still live a healthy lifestyle,' he said. But he added: 'This study shows for the first time that body size is linked to the FOXO3 gene. 'We knew that in animal models of aging. We did not know that in humans. We have the same or a slightly different version in mice, roundworms, flies, even yeast has a version of this gene, and it's important in longevity across all these species.' 

Around 1,200 men from the study lived into their 90s and 100s, and approximately 250 of those men are still alive today. A separate study, published in 2012, had similar results. That research, which tracked men on the Italian island of Sardinia, found that shorter men lived for two years longer than their taller counterparts. It tracked 500 males born between 1866 and 1915.

Smaller mice, rats, ponies and monkeys generally live longer. The smaller Asian elephant also lives longer than the larger African elephant.