Height, health and “hygienic environment”: Umbria and Sardinia at the end of the 19th century

Donatella Lanari



In this paper the effects of the early life environment on adult health conditions are explored, using proxies for a “hygienic environment”, which included a sewerage system, clean water supply, absence of stagnant water, infectious disease rates, and basic healthcare. It also analyses the relationship between height and health according to historical data in military records for two Italian regions. The focus is on conscripts born in 1880 and 1881 in Sardinia and Umbria, respectively,  examined 20 years later. A multilevel logit regression model is specified to evaluate the influence of both individual and macro-aggregate variables on health status, measured by the outcome of being fit for military service. The main findings demonstrate how hygienic conditions in early life and the availability of sanitary facilities may significantly affect adult health status, especially in Sardinian communities. Results  showed that taller people were healthier, although a non-linear relationship existed between health and height. Lastly, a positive association between literacy and health was also found. 

Donatella LANARI, Researcher, Department of Economics, Finance and Statistics, University of  Perugia, and Department of Statistical Sciences, Sapienza University of Rome, Viale Regina Elena, n. 295, 00161-Rome, Italy. E-mail:  




















height, health, Italian conscripts, hygienic infrastructures.

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ISSN: 2035-5556

Reg. Tribunale di Roma n. 3321/54