Background: Evidence from several populations suggests
that war negatively impacts civilian nutrition, physical growth and overall health. This effect is often enduring or permanent, particularly if experienced early in life.
Aim: To assess whether the number of lifetime displacement
experiences and being displaced in infancy were associated with adult height, sitting height, leg length and the sitting height ratio.
Subjects and methods: Retrospective questionnaires on
displacement and resettlement experiences and
anthropometric data were collected from a sample of Laotian adult refugees (ethnic Hmong and Lao; n ¼ 365). All were born in Laos or Thailand and had resettled in French Guiana or the US. Many had been displaced several times by military conflict in Laos.
Results: In bivariate analyses, being displaced in infancy and the number of lifetime displacement experiences one had were negatively associated with final adult height and leg length in both sexes. The association was stronger in females, particularly Hmong females. There was no significant association between total displacement experiences and the sitting height ratio. In multiple regression analyses, linear growth in males was negatively associated with being displaced in infancy; in females, the number of lifetime displacement experiences was a significant predictor.
Conclusion: Forced displacement from war appears to have
a lasting effect on final adult height, sitting height and leg
length, although not necessarily on the sitting height ratio
in this sample.