We study the effect of the spread of democracy on population health in 15 European countries since the middle of the 19th century, and more specifically the average height of adult males by five-year birth cohort, and we estimate the effect of transitions to democracy using within-country variation. We find that the advent of democracy increased average height by about 0.7Â cm. When we also account for the extension of the franchise to women, this increases to 1Â cm or about 9% of the total increase in height of birth cohorts from the 1870s to the 1970s. Intervening mechanisms include reduced inequality and increased expenditure on social and health services. Our results are robust to a wide range of econometric tests.