The Secretly Easy Life Of Tall People

Published by BuzzFeed on October 1, 2015

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise according to Benjamin Franklin. But social research proves that late nights and snooze buttons are not entirely culpable for sickness, poverty, or stupidity. Since the turn of the century, academia has uncovered growing support for a secret fast-track to health, wealth, and happiness controlled, unfortunately, by genetics: height.

As a point of reference, the average height of an American male is five feet, ten inches—for women, five feet, four inches.

For starters, height and career success by-and-large have a direct correlation. Tall people (meaning of above-average height) are statistically likelier to advance faster and enjoy comparatively more successful careers. For example, only fourteen percent of American men are six feet or taller. That number jumps to fifty-eight percent among Fortune 500 company’s CEOs.

Tall people also cash bigger paychecks. In a research project observing 8,950 random subjects, the Journal of Applied Psychology found (after controlling for sex, age, and weight) an incredibly strong, positive relationship between height and income. In fact the tallest quarter of Americans on average earns ten percent more than the shortest quarter. For white females specifically, data from Britain’s National Child Development Study and American’s National Longitudinal Survey of Youth reported that, an extra inch of height corresponds with a 1.7% increase in annual wages. The Journal of Political Economy published corroborating statistics from a collaborative academic study of U.S. households that proves a one-inch increase in height corresponds with a 1.4-2.9% increase in weekly earnings.

Politics reinforces the correlation between stature and success because, as a rule, Americans elect the tallest presidential candidate. Every rule has exceptions, but the taller candidate has won ten out of the thirteen most recent presidential races. And out of forty-two American presidents, only eight have been below average height.

Genetics cannot claim complete responsibility for personal success; cognitive ability definitely deserves some attribution, too. But decades of thorough research has repeatedly proven positive associations between height and IQ. Some scholars suggest the home environment or childhood nutrition as an explanation for a strong height-intelligence relationship, but ultimately the underlying causes are unclear.

What is clear, however, is that short people deal with other physical challenges besides height. Studies from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, American Journal of Epidemiology, American Heart Association, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and the Journal of Pediatrics have solidified strong positive correlations between short stature and heightened risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes, respectively. In fact, in a study of three million men and women, the CDC found that shorter people have a fifty percent higher risk of having deadly heart disease.

The plight of the short does not end with health or wealth, unfortunately—tall people are also usually happier. The National Bureau of Economic Research found that pessimistic, unhappy, and otherwise disgruntled men stand nearly an inch shorter than the average man. Unhappy women are also usually a half-inch below average height. The cause for this correlation is uncertain, but psychology Ph.D. Gordon Patzer suggests that family life and relationship dynamics could be strong catalysts. Research proves that taller people have healthier, sexier, livelier relationships than comparable shorter counterparts. For example, the University of Liverpool, in a study that observed 3,200 men between the ages of 28 and 60, found that tall males are substantially more likely to get the girl, be married with children, and have happy families.

In The Power and Paradox of Physical Attractiveness, Patzer suggests that tall people are often more successful than their shorter counterparts because height is subconsciously viewed as an indicator of authority and strong leadership. Sociologists also theorize that childhood experiences often directly correspond with adult achievements. For instance, according to leading sociologists, above-average height in childhood fosters confidence and increases social interaction. These traits cultivate optimistic adults with stronger, healthier social networks.

Sociologists normally attribute socioeconomic differences to race, education, familial environment, and social opportunities. Statistically, the influence of height beats all of those variables. Tall people routinely enjoy the benefits of their stature making life for a shorter person more difficult, by comparison. Admittedly, outliers always exist and prevent any statistical correlation from being universally true (e.g. Tom Cruise, Spud Webb). But while short people certainly are not categorically sick, impoverished, and depressed, an easier lifestyle has passed them over and fallen into the hands of the tall.

Thanks, genetics.


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