WEIGHT has become a known risk factor for coronavirus but scientists now claim that height could make you more vulnerable.
Being tall could more than double your chance of testing positive for Covid-19, experts have said.
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Researchers in the UK, Norway and the US, examined a wide range of personal and work-related predictors of transmission.
They said that the early results – from a survey of 2,000 people – suggested that aerosol transmission of the virus is very likely, with taller people at twice the risk.
It’s something that would not be expected if transmission was exclusively through droplets, they said.
‘Spread in air’
Aerosols can accumulate in poorly ventilated areas and are carried by air currents.
Droplets, however, are bigger than aerosols and are thought to travel relatively short distances and drop quickly from the air.
Though the paper is yet to be peer reviewed, the authors feel its implications on the debate over aerosol transmission should be made available to the wider community.
The survey also explores the impacts of personal characteristics, circumstances and working conditions.
Using a shared kitchen or accommodation was also a significant factor, especially in the US where the odds are 3.5 times as high, while in the UK it was 1.7 times higher.
And people with natural science degrees in the UK were slightly less likely to get the disease, compared with those in the US – even when controlling for car ownership and other socio-economic information.
The experts argue that it may be an indication of more careful shielding and being able to socially distance in the UK.
Prof Evan Kontopantelis, from the University of Manchester, said: “The results of this survey in terms of associations between height and diagnosis suggest downward droplet transmission is not the only transmission mechanism and aerosol transmission is possible.
“This has been suggested by other studies but our method of confirmation is novel.
“Though social distancing is still important because transmission by droplets is still likely to occur, it does suggest that mask wearing may be just as if not more effective in prevention.
It does suggest that mask wearing may be just as if not more effective in prevention
Prof Evan Kontopantelis
“But also, air purification in interior spaces should be further explored.”
Professor Paul Anand, a research director at The Open University said: “Much scientific research has focused on patterns of spread and underlying mechanisms of transmission.
“But as economies and societies reopen, it is important to know more about the role personal factors as predictors of transmission.
“Though both are market economies, the US and UK differ in the extent and manner in they provide access to health care and welfare support – and that to some extent is demonstrated by the associations shown by the data.”
Rolando Gonzales Martinez, researcher of the University of Agder in Norway, said “Both structural and individual factors must be taken into account when predicting transmission or designing effective public health measures and messages to prevent or contain transmission.
“But it would be helpful to have repeat observations so more could be said about changes over time.”
But some experts have urged caution over the findings.
Prof Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia, said: “The authors analysed a substantial number of possible predictors for a range of outcome measures.
“One of the biggest mistakes that people make with epidemiological surveys is multiple hypothesis testing.
“The more hypothesis tests you do the more likely you are to flag up associations that have only arisen by chance. This is a further problem when subgroups are analysed.
“In my view this analysis does not even provide convincing evidence that tall people are protected from the infection never mind whether this means that there is aerosol transmission.”