If you're short, you know it's a tall person's world out there — but if you're tall, you know it's a short person's world out there. Everyone has their own opinions on the pros and cons of their stature, but what does your height actually say about your health? Like most short people, I could go on and on about the perils of being a member of the 5'1"-and-under club: The endless hobbit jokes, the impossibility of finding jeans (and skirts and shorts and dress) that aren't six inches too long, and of course, the inescapable feeling that your life is nothing but a series of loosely-connected scenes in which people physically pick you, an adult woman, up and pass you around the room because it's "funny."
However, none of these things are actual health hazards, unless one of the people who picks you up drops you down a flight of stairs and breaks your toe — not that I'm speaking from personal experience or anything. Barring that possibility, though, there's evidence that short people live longer, and according to recent research, we're less likely to develop cancer than our Amazonian friends. On the other hand, the same study found that tall people are less likely to develop some non-communicable diseases than those with shorter statures. Let's take a look at the reasons for this, along with some other ways your height affects your health, below.
1. Tall People Are Less Likely To Develop Diabetes
According to a study from the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), your height can have a surprising impact on your health, even disregarding factors like body mass and composition. Research showed that shorter people are less likely to develop cancer, but tall people are less likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Researchers found that tall people are more sensitive to insulin as a consequence of the growth factors that make them taller in the first place, which could explain why they're less likely to develop diabetes. Similarly, the study showed that tall people tend to have less fat in their livers, which could be why they're less likely to have cardiovascular problems.
On the other hand, the heightened activity of the system involving their growth factors has its drawbacks, too. Consider this:
2. Short People Are Less Likely To Develop Cancer
Last fall, a Swedish study found that your risk for developing cancer increases with every extra four inches of height, and the DZD's study supported those findings. Researchers suspect that the activation of the insulin growth factor system that protects tall people from diabetes also increases their risk for cancer. Simply put, their cells are dividing more often, so there are more opportunities for that process to go wrong and cancer to form.
3. Tall Women Have Longer Pregnancies
According to a 2015 study, shorter women are more likely to have shorter pregnancies and smaller babies, and they're more likely to give birth prematurely than taller women. Researchers are still looking into the causes, but they suspect it has to do with a combination of women's genes and nutrition throughout their lifetimes.
On the other hand, research has also shown that short women are likely to have more children than taller ones. Go figure.
4. Short People Have Worse Self-Esteem
A 2014 study found that people who feel short have lower self-esteem and exhibit excessive mistrust — at least, in virtual reality. In the study, participants went through a virtual reality train ride twice: The first time, they experienced it at their normal height, and the second, their height was reduced. According to the results, participants reported more negative feelings, like incompetence and inferiority, during their second train ride. Of course, one virtual reality study isn't enough evidence to draw definite conclusions between height and self-esteem, but it does shed light on how height affects our on our senses of self.
5. Tall People Are Happier
According to a 2009 study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, tall people are simply happier than shorter ones. People who reported being above the average American height also reported higher levels of happiness on a survey, and they were less likely to report negative emotions like sadness or pain. In contrast, the men and women who described their lives as the "worst possible" were an inch and half an inch, respectively, shorter on average than the national average. Yikes.
Researchers hypothesize that this is due to a number of factors like education and income. In addition to being more confident, tall people tend to have higher levels of education and make more money than the petite brigade.
In short (heh), it really is a tall person's world out there. So next time someone starts complaining about being too long-limbed and Amazonian, feel free to smack them — if you can reach.