How Long Do Dwarves Live? (Basic Overview)
Multiple studies over the years have found a correlation between a shorter height and a longer lifespan. However, when being unusually short, can this be detrimental to how long you live?
Dwarfism is characterized by a height of under 4'10 (147cm), however, this isn't always the case, and sometimes dwarfs can be taller than this.
So what is the average lifespan of a dwarf?
In the majority of cases, people who have dwarfism will live a normal lifespan. However, with over 300 variations, some of which are associated with known complications affecting internal organs and bones, and in cases such as these, it is common for life expectancy to be around 10 years less than average.
Types of Dwarfism
Those with proportionate dwarfism have unusually small bodies and body parts, but they fall in line by staying in proportion, which gives the impression of a small, but average proportioned body.
Proportionate dwarfism can be characterized by:
- Medical conditions at a young age an causing a lack of growth hormone and therefore a small stature
- Sexual development being heavily delayed throughout adolescence
- Dwarfism of this type includes primordial dwarfism, where the infant is very small in size and continues grow at a much slower rate than normal.
This type of dwarfism poses fewer health issues, and Intelligence usually remains within a normal range and generally has a normal life expectancy without further problems arising. However, as overall growth is affected, this can result in a subpar development of somebody's systems such as internal organs. Heart problems can occur due to this.
Those with disproportionate dwarfism suffer from disproportionate body parts. Commonly this can means a normal-sized torso with shorter limbs, but sometimes it can be a longer trunk and shorter limbs. There are other variations of this, but the key factor is disproportionate body parts.
Some characteristics of disproportionate dwarfism include:
- Having short limbs, which may include particularly short upper arms and upper legs.
- Other symptoms can include short fingers and limited mobility at the elbow joints
- A disproportionately large head and forehead
Due to disproportion, this type of dwarfism poses various problems that can lead to serious health issues. Common traits related to this type include difficulty breathing during sleep and also due to a hunched back, other issues are excessive fluid around the brain, and weight gain which can put added pressure on the nerves, spine and joints.
What Age is Dwarfism Diagnosed?
When dwarfism is first diagnosed depends on the type in question. Disproportionate dwarfism will sometimes be suspected before birth due to ultrasound scans showing the disproportionate limbs of the baby. This will become apparent from birth, so this type of dwarfism can be diagnosed very early.
Proportionate dwarfism, however, can remain undiagnosed until late childhood, and sometimes teenage years, where bodily growth becomes unusually slow.
Corrective Surgeries are Common
There are varying degrees of health issues that can arise with dwarfism, such as lack of organ growth and skeletal dysplasia, amongst other medical problems. This is why it is common for those suffering from achondroplasia to undergo surgeries throughout their lifetime. The severity of medical needs will differ from person to person, and in general, surgeries will not affect lifespan.
However, this is not always the case, and with over 300 variations it is going to be difficult to pinpoint every detail that may affect lifespan, but there are some known conditions linked to increased mortality rates of dwarfism. Here is some documented evidence of issues that can affect the lifespan of someone suffering from achondroplasia.
Studies on How Dwarfism Affects Lifespan
Infants suffering from achondroplasia and very young children under 2 years of age have an increased risk of death. It states that "between 2% and 5% of children with achondroplasia will die" (1).
Heart-Disease related mortality has been documented in people suffering from achondroplasia since the late 80s, and one study following up on this found that "accidental, neurological, and heart disease-related deaths were increased in adults", meaning that somebody with achondroplasia has these issues then there is a 10x more likelihood of experiencing heart disseize death than the general population (2).
These results are a few of many potential issues and provide some insight on how forms of achondroplasia can affect lifespan, and the increased rate of mortality linked to the above opens up doors for further research and development to help combat these health issues.
Food For Thought
Whether little people are less prone to issues that affect the lifespans of regular-sized people not widely known. So while they may be prone to certain types of illnesses and complications due to their body type, so are taller people and other body types/genetic dispositions, which can also lower the average life expectancy of the general population.
Who is The Longest Living Dwarf?
According to the record books, Winifred Ann Kelley is the known longest-living dwarf. Born July 31st in 1923, she wasn't aware of her condition in high school, once saying that "It never even occurred to me that I was different. When I was in grade school, I was one of the gang,” (3).
Although there were some physical limitations, she did not let it stop her from living a normal life, and she even first started driving in her 70's!
What Are 5 Interesting Facts About Dwarfism?
Some interesting facts about dwarfism are:
- There are in excess of 300 types of dwarfism.
- The majority of people born with dwarfism have average-sized parents (around 80%)
- The word “midget” describes a proportionate dwarf, first named in the 1800s during the profit exhibition scene. However, due to the term being overused to describe anything considerably smaller than average it is deemed as offensive and simply should not ever be used to describe someone with dwarfism.
- The majority of dwarves have other medical complications linked to their condition, but this does not usually affect lifespan.
- There are between 650 and 700 thousand people in the world with dwarfism, and it affects around 1 in 15,000 to 1 in 40,000 people of all races and genders (4).
How Long do Dwarfs Live in Fantasy?
In fantasy, Dwarves live around 200- 250 years on average, and depending on who is telling the story, sometimes more! The lower end of the range can be put down to those dying in combat, and the high number is the result of them being able to resist disseize and are inherently strong and tough characters who can withstand most illnesses the world throws at them.
When asking how long dwarves live it is not straightforward, as with over 300 types of dwarfism, it is going to take more research for a deeper understanding of these variations and how they affect lifespan.
But from what we know about the more commonly associated problems, it is generally considered they will live an average lifespan, although there are also a number of life-threatening complications that can arise.
These include under-developed organs, leading to heart problems, and other corrective surgeries, that can result in a lifespan of around 10 years less than average.