60-Second Science

Height Affects Perception of Health

Data from England show that shorter people perceive their health as being poorer than tall or average-height people do. Steve Mirsky reports.

Height is correlated with a lot of things.  Up to a certain height, taller people make more money than the vertically challenged.  And the taller presidential candidate almost always wins.  Now a study finds that your height as an adult has a profound effect on your perception of your health.  Short people judge their health to be worse than average or tall people judge theirs.  The research was published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology.

Data for the study came from the 2003 Health Survey for England.  More than 14,000 participants filled out questionnaires and had their heights measured.  The study only looked at how good the subject thought his or her health was, not their actual health.  Questions focused on five areas: mobility, self-care, normal activities, pain or discomfort and anxiety or depression.  Men shorter than about 5’4” and women shorter than 5’ reported the worst impressions.  But small increases in height at the low end had much bigger effects on perception than the same increases among taller people.  Other studies have shown, ironically, that shorter people on average actually live longer.

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