The significance of variations of human size dimorphism in stature in Europe in the field of health and well-being

Antonio D. Cámara, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Applying anthropometric indicators like stature and sexual stature dimorphism (SSD) to the field of health and well-being faces the difficulty of disentangling the influences of nature from nurture as well as the interaction between processes of selection and adaptation to changing environmental conditions. In this paper the significance of variations and differentials of adult stature among males and females is discussed in light of previous historical and anthropological data together with new empirical evidence collected from diverse European populations over the 20th century. Specifically, it is aimed to elucidate the relationship between intergenerational changes and social differences in mean adult stature and mean adult SSD among European cohorts born over the 20th century. For these purposes heights from modern health surveys were drawn together with a number of socio-demographic variables in order to approach the socioeconomic status of individuals while they were growing (i.e. at pre-adult ages). Multivariate regression techniques were applied to adjust series of SSD for different segments of the population. In Spain SSD remained relatively low, with respect to modern standards among well-off populations, among cohorts that were exposed to structural deprivation at pre-adult ages, mainly during the first half of the 20th century. This result compares to higher values of SSD among English population since the beginning of the 20th century. In Spain socioeconomic status approached by the educational attainment of individuals mediated the correction of these deviations among subsequent cohorts. Middle-upper classes were systematically closer to normal SSD values, and they reached these values earlier in time. This mediation is only partially observed in England. Our results point to a correlation of variations in SSD with both socioeconomic changes related to well-being standards at a nationwide level and SES differentials at the individual level which will be contrasted through the exploration of other European populations.

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Presented in Poster Session 3