Danny DeVito
Danny DeVito is 5ft tall Reuters

Short men live for longer, with men who are 5ft 2 or below having the best chance of longevity, a study has found.

Scientists at the University of Hawaii used data from the Kuakini Honolulu Heart Programme (HHP) and the Kuakini Honolulu-Asia Aging Study (HAAS) to look at the height and lifespan of Japanese men.

Published in PLOS ONE, findings showed that shorter men were more likely to be protected from a longevity gene, called FOXO3.

Bradley Willcox, one of the study investigators, said: "We split people into two groups -- those that were 5ft 2 and shorter, and 5ft 4 and taller. The folks that were 5-2 and shorter lived the longest. The range was seen all the way across from being 5ft tall to 6ft tall. The taller you got, the shorter you lived."

The FOXO3 gene leads to smaller body size during early development and a longer lifespan.

Researchers also found shorter men were less likely to suffer from cancer and more likely to have lower blood insulin levels.

Bernie Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone towered over by his lawyers in Munich Reuters

"This study shows for the first time, that body size is linked to this gene," Willcox said. "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."

The Kuakini HHP collected data on over 8,000 American men of Japanese ancestry born between 1900 and 1919. Their lifestyles and health was monitored over the years and it is the only longitudinal study of Japanese-American men that includes epidemiological and clinical data.

Around 1,200 men from the study lived into their 90s and 100s, with around 250 still alive today.

While the study indicated that being short gives men an advantage for longevity, Willcox said taller men should not feel disheartened: "No matter how tall you are, you can still live a healthy lifestyle," he said.