Short men: Good for baby-making, but an extra foot in the grave
A study suggests that women should reproduce with shorter men, but that doesn't mean being short is a good thing
Finally, a slither of good news in the plight of short men. A new academic paper has raised the suggestion that women should reproduce with the vertically challenged, for the good of the species.
According to the research, published in the journal Nature, the greater the size difference between the sexes, the higher the chance of that species becoming extinct. Could the long-established trend for women to seek tall men be a danger to the existence of humanity?Well, maybe not. Before you rush to update your online dating profile (men are said to exaggerate their height by an average of five centimetres), it should be noted that the research was conducted on extinct crustaceans. It’s unlikely to change the mating habits of humans any time soon.In truth, vertigo-inducing height is an established measure of status in the Western world – a learning that’s drilled into men from childhood. Commenting on a child’s height at a family get-together is the equivalent of saying “what do you do?” at a cocktail party: a conversational ice-breaker that betrays our inner, competitive fascination with social markers.
I speak from experience. As a kid of below-average height, I fared poorly in those conversational ice-breakers. Upon entering a new household, my friends would be greeted by whooping rounds of “my, how you’ve grown!” only for the adults to awkwardly splutter out a business-like “um, how good to see you” when it came to my turn.
I dreamed of the salvation that lay in the utopia of adulthood. As far as I could see, adults never greeted each other with a blunt discussion about height.
It never arrived. Years later, staring blankly at a Tinder profile that read “1.8 metres, no guys shorter than me”, I realised that height is still just as annoyingly important, even when you’re grown up.In short, if you’re a little man — bald or otherwise — you’ve got it tough. Here’s why:
1. You earn less
A study of 120,000 Britons released last year by the BMJ found that there was a relationship between lower socio-economic status and shorter stature among men.
As well as finding that short men are less likely to have been educated to degree level than tall men, it revealed a strong correlation among men between shorter height and lower household income.
A similar study carried out by the psychologist Timothy Judge in 2004 found that with every inch of height, an average of £505 was added to a person’s annual salary.2. It’s harder to reach the top
Short men are less represented at the highest ranks of leadership than tall men. As one US study put it in 2009: “It is hardly a coincidence that 58% of Fortune 500 CEOs are 1.8 metres or taller (compared with roughly 14.5% of all men)”.
Unconscious bias against short people effectively amounts to a form of workplace discrimination that prevents shorter men from climbing the ladder. As the Canadian journalist Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book Blink, which looked at how we instantly judge people and things: “Most of us, in ways that we are not entirely aware of, automatically associate leadership ability with imposing physical stature.”
3. Dating is a minefield
As touched upon earlier, online dating can be a disaster zone for short men. Hence why, if OKCupid bios are anything to go by, almost all men exaggerate their height by a couple of centimetres.Nor is it just a problem for online daters. This 2013 study found that, on average, women prefer their partner to be 20cm taller than them, and other research by anthropologist Dr Boguslaw Pawlowski has concluded that potential partners size each other up before considering each others’ face, personality or body shape.
It gets worse – or better, depending on what altitude you’re reading this from. A study of married couples in Indonesia found that a having a taller husband was positively related to a wife’s happiness.
In the States, the man is taller than the woman in around 90% of heterosexual married couples, which speaks of society’s expectations. Men who’ve dated women who are taller than them will know the feeling of having passers-by look at you like they’ve just seen a glitch in the matrix.4. You’re stuck with it
There’s a lot we can do to rectify perceived shortcomings in the modern world – but what can you do about a lack of height? Short of going the full hog and getting your legs extended (seriously, it does happen), your only recourse is an elevating pair of platforms.
I’ve sat in a bar and watched a short man get roundly mocked for his platform shoes, revealed thanks to a dignity-defying hoist of the trouser leg from a passer-by. It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for Nicolas Sarkozy ...5. It can take a toll
Arguably, it’s a closely fought battle between OCD and Small Man Syndrome for the most frequently misused (pseudo?)psychological term in common parlance.
It’s certainly a nonsense to reduce any anger expressed by a short man as in some way intrinsically related to his height, when tall men have been known to throw their fair share of tantrums too.
That being said, there is evidence to suggest that shorter people experience greater levels of paranoia, and that shorter American men at least can be more prone to violence.
All the more reason for society at large to ditch our unconscious prejudice and stop applying psychological stresses on short men.6. There’s a reason why we say ‘thick as two short planks’
According to weak but notable correlations found in scientific studies, shorter people – men and women – are likely on average to be less intelligent than taller people.
One explanation for this is that height can be an indicator of genetic health – so people who are healthier grow taller and become more intelligent. However, as one academic in the field writes in an article for Psychology Today, “the real answer is we don’t know for sure”.
7. You die younger
This one comes with a meaty caveat. There’s rigorous debate in the scientific community as to whether height correlates to life expectancy – and, indeed, some research has shown that far from living longer, tall people are more at risk of cancer (they have more cells that can go wrong, in layman’s terms) which can bring about an early death.
However, there does seem to be an overall relationship between height and lifespan – and it’s not good news for the shorties. Three studies – here, here and here – all found that taller people have a reduced risk of early death.
– © The Daily Telegraph