Baby height linked to suicide

Male babies born shorter than average run over twice the risk of violent death by suicide later in life, a new study suggests.

The study, lead by Ellenor Mittendorfer Rutz at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, offers little solace for late developers. Even males that grow to normal height retain a higher risk of attempting violent suicide if they had the misfortune to be less than 47 centimetres at birth.

This contrasts with other research which suggests that the risks of developing schizophrenia, lower cognitive function and other mental health problems decrease once short babies reach normal height, reports the New Scientist.

“But this was not true for suicide attempts,” said Mittendorfer Rutz.

Other groups that run a higher risk of suicide later in life include those born weighing less than 2.5 kilograms. Babies who are underweight but of a regular height run two and a half times the risk of attempting suicide later in life than those of average height and weight.

Premature babies, which the study defines as before 34 weeks, run fully four times the risk of a violent suicide attempt as an adult.

Babies born of average height (51 to 52 cm) that remain short as adults carry a 56 percent greater risk of attempting violent suicide. The study indicates that violent suicide risk declines in relation to how tall a man becomes.

Researchers believe that levels of serotonin could provide the explanation. Serotonin is known to be critical to the development of the brain and the existence of low levels have been connected to aggressive and suicidal behavior.

The study follows up 318,953 men born in Sweden between 1973 and 1980 and until their first attempt at suicide – or their emigration or death – up to the end of 1999.

Violent suicide deaths are classified by the researchers as hanging, use of a gun or knife, jumping from height or in front of a moving vehicle, intentionally crashing a vehicle or drowning.